Ah, Super Bowl Sunday. America's national holiday of gluttony. And of course, a chance to sit around the TV and chew on one of the most divisive hot-button issues in America, abortion.
For all the hoopla, the Focus on the Family ad featuring Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam, who are committed Christians, opposing abortion was much ado about nothing -- basically directing traffic to a website. Talk about bang for the buck -- given the advance controversy CBS' decision to air it engendered -- though I question what the organization hoped to accomplish by placing the spot, other than to make a lot of people irritated and uncomfortable.
If you are staunchly anti-abortion, the ad merely reinforces your views. If you support a woman's right to choose, it's obviously not going to change your mind. That leaves the great number of people in the middle, who support restrictions on abortion but believe there ought to be a right to choose. They don't love the procedure, but they're not virulently opposed to it. Many of those people, I suspect, are annoyed to have the issue raised while they worry about Peyton Manning's passing and try to wolf down guacamole and chips. The ad itself wasn't objectionable, but its placement was boorish.
But the unlikely duo that really stole the show were David Letterman and Jay Leno, who unexpectedly appeared together in a "Late Show" spot with Oprah Winfrey. Given the vitriol Letterman has flung Leno's way, it was an especially nifty idea to put the two together in this grand showcase. Moreover, it was smart for both guys to put some of the petulant nonsense behind them, if only for the day.
As for the rest of the ads:
THE MOVIE STUDIOS:
The studios had a limited presence at this year's game, which is probably a wise move. It's difficult to produce a trailer that stands out in this context, unlike products that can create spots specifically for this forum.
Universal's "Robin Hood" looked extremely promising, though it's hard to tell what to make of "The Wolfman" based on its spots. Ditto for Paramount's "Shutter Island," whose ad still hasn't told me much of anything regarding what the movie's about. Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" and the swashbuckler "Prince of Persia" at least offer the kind of eye-catching visuals that are bound to get an audience's attention. (A pre-game spot for "The Last Airbender" simply left me going "Huh," but then again, given M. Night Shyamalan's recent track record, it's going to take a lot to get me to another one of his movies.)
BEST (AND WORST) OF THE REST:
Most of the advertisers wasted their time and money -- and if there was an odd theme to this year's game, it was showing men in their underwear. Frankly, it just left me feeling like they smoke a lot of weed on Madison Avenue.
The best: The top prize in my view goes to Google, whose second-half ad traced the entire arc of a romance using search questions. Brilliant in terms of both pushing the product and using it to tell a story -- one of those little cinematic gems.
The rest of the best: Coke's spot featuring "The SImpsons," with Mr. Burns sharing a Coke and a smile; Snickers, featuring Betty White and Abe Vigoda; the Bud Light spot with the asteroid hurtling towards Earth; Budweiser, with people building a human bridge to get their beer; Cars.com, reminding us that shopping for Cars is a pain in the ass; Motorola putting Megan Fox in a bathtub, with hilarious results; and Audi's spot for the advantages of having an eco-friendly car.
The worst: Dove Men's Care, or whatever it was, doing the history of man; the Dodge Charger, another peculiar concept; and the websites GoDaddy and Monster.com, which just seemed inordinately dense. Another website, Homeaway.com, also disappointed with its "Family Vacation" spoof, using Chevy Chase to no great effect. And what was the point of the Emerald Nuts commercial with people acting like dolphins?
Bottom line: The Super Bowl generally works best for Budweiser and junk food. (Oh yeah, a couple of the Doritos spots were OK too.)
Yes, it's easy to forget that part of it. Tough and close, with the outcome uncertain until the closing minutes. CBS should be very happy -- and rewarded with terrific numbers, I'd bet, given the ratings for big events of late.
Of course, the afterglow won't last long, but maybe the network gets a boost on Monday for its comedies. After that, the hangover should be over.