Commentary

Mini-Darth Vader, Eminem best TV spots

Updated: February 7, 2011, 6:56 PM ET
By Jerry Greene | Special to Page 2

If we judge our culture based on the overall picture painted by the Super Bowl commercials, we may be a nation of self-obsessed and violent cross-dressers. Or not.

Whatever we are, the collective message from the $100,000-a-second advertisements during Super Bowl XLV seemed to be an attempt to amuse by often grossing us out.

Doritos led the way with a spot featuring a guy so in love with the orange-colored chips that he sucked the finger of one co-worker and smelled the pants of another.

Can you say, "Ick"?

Doritos also did another man-beats-dog spot but it was not nearly as funny as last year's "electric collar" commercial. They also had one promoting the life-giving powers of their chips, concluding with bringing grandpa back to life. (Kids, don't try this at home.)

The cross-dresser? He was in a spot for Livingsocial.com, which must attract an interesting clientele.

And in the third quarter, Homeaway.com presented an odd spot about a "hotel room simulation" that ended with the "test baby" being smashed against a glass wall. Not just violent but smash-the-test-baby violence. Really?

Meanwhile, Pepsi Max would have us believe that true love means whopping a female jogger in the head with a full can of soda pop.

Everyone has their own taste but a sure contender for most popular has to be "The Force" by Volkswagen, a charming tale of a mini-Darth Vader that works for anyone who has ever known a 5-year-old boy. It has already gone viral on YouTube.com with more than 13 million views.

A surprise contender for best spot had Eminem touting Detroit and the new Chrysler 200 mid-size vehicle. Two minutes long, it was serious and impressive.

Clearly advertisers paid more attention than ever before to multi-media interests of that coveted young-adult demographic.

Audi A8, for example, had spots that made fun of "old luxury" and, indirectly, old people. One was a spoof of the "horse head" scene from "The Godfather," while another depicted an old rich guy trying to break away from a luxurious prison but is tricked by the music of Kenny G.

Go Daddy made fun of itself by showing its new girl -- an enhanced Joan Rivers. Teleflora.com showed us a young guy who thought the appropriate Valentine's Day message to his girl was "Your rack is unreal."

And E-trade had its "smart baby" ads that everyone now finds either cute or creepy.

Perhaps the most self-serving sponsor was Groupon.com, the increasingly popular Web site that offers discount coupons to its members. This was the first time that the online company went offline to sell itself. It used an "all about me" theme in its spots, centering around something photogenic and endangered such as whales or the rain forest. But instead of helping out, a B-list celebrity such as Cuba Gooding Jr. tells us about some great coupon he got from the site.

Poor whales.

For those who love "the kitchen sink" style of commercial, there was Kia Optima's tale that involved Poseidon, aliens and Mayan (Incan? Aztec?) warriors fighting over a car. Like Gooding, Poseidon needs a better agent.

Even the NFL has its own promotional moments such as the copy read by Michael Douglas that attempted to sell us on how it is patriotic to watch professional football. It's nonsense, of course, but nonsense that works.

Perhaps that's what Super Bowl commercials are about anyway.

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