Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Two days later and Americans remain obsessed with Super Bowl commercials. It’s now time to determine what it all means — or doesn’t mean.

Everyone has an opinion.

The American Humane Society, for example, announced yesterday that the dozen commercials featuring live animals have earned the official “No Animals Were Harmed” credit by virtue of safe production practices. More than 20 million people flocked to Fox’s interactive MySpace site devoted to the 2008 ads to ponder Doritos’ pugnacious rat or Budweiser’s noble Clydesdale, each an instant star in the pantheon of marketing.

Meanwhile, 2,400 viewers voted FedEx’s “giant pigeon” spot best in show, according to the pollsters of HCI, a marketing group, while a Northwestern University survey of 50,000 deemed Paramount’s “Ironman” spot most entertaining.

“The big game is in the books, but the real competition is just beginning,” said David Shoffner, spokesman for Spotbowl.com, which also solicited public opinion about Sunday’s high-priced pitches.

“With so much pre-game hype, viewers expect more from the commercials. They’re connoisseurs now, weighing in with family and friends. Polling takes it to a whole new level. People get anxious to see how their opinions compare to the rest of the country,” said Mr. Shoffner.

“We did see dark humor, some violence, some weirdness — right along with the warm and fuzzy stuff. People had problems with the guy in the rat costume who seriously beat up some other guy for Doritos and Careerbuilder’s pretty little fairy who got eaten by the spider,” he said.

Ka-Chew, the San Francisco-based animation group, which created the fairy massacre, recently gained fame for a Mucinex commercial showcasing blobs of talking mucus.

Some were not so keen on it all.

Ad Age critic Bob Garfield said yesterday that some spots “scared children,” and wondered whether Bridgestone Tire’s ad — which featured fitness guru Richard Simmons in the headlights of an oncoming car — was “grounded in homophobia.” He also cited McDonald’s for adding their logo during a charity outreach.

“McDonald’s couldn’t even help cancer victims without getting in their brand. Disgraceful,” Mr. Garfield said.

University of Wisconsin marketing professor Chuck Tomkovick questioned the Super Bowl’s pervasive commercialism.

“For some consumers, it’s information overload. Before their ad even ran, Hyundai told viewers to go to the USA Today ad meter for feedback. Why? These marketers are getting caught up in the process, not the product. That’s too much analysis,” Mr. Tomkovick said. “It would be like showing how a Hollywood film was made — right in the middle of the film itself.”

His own research revealed the makeup of this year’s ads.

“We found that 85 percent of the ads tried to be funny, 43 percent used celebrities and 32 percent trotted out animals or mythical creatures. And 80 percent were on ‘good Super Bowl behavior.’ But 20 percent were not,” Mr. Tomkovick added.

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