Super Bowl 50’s ads were inoffensive…and unexciting.
What happens when you combine three disparate elements into one entertainment experience? You get something disjointed that, despite being entertaining, is maybe a little weird, potentially unfulfilling, but if you’re lucky, memorable. No, I’m not just talking about a borderline disturbing Mountain Dew ad. I’m talking about the whole Super Bowl itself.
Like New Year’s Eve, the Super Bowl has grown to be such a big event that it’s hard for the actual event to ever actually follow through on all of the implicit promises it makes. Years of famous ads and half-time shows have created an expectation that this year’s Super Bowl (whichever year it might be) will be bigger, better, and more spectacular than all the rest. This gets to be an impossible act to follow, until inevitably you end up with a year like 2016’s Super Bowl 50, with a collection of ads so forgettable that a Mountain Dew ad was the best I could reference and expect anyone to remember it. Which begs the question – who still drinks Mountain Dew?
The game itself, and even the halftime show, were all on point. From a sports and music perspective, rather than an entertainment media one, there isn’t much to say. Yet the media spectacle of yesteryear – the Super Bowl ad – was lacking. Why? The number of viewers were on par with last year’s, and the ad space itself was as expensive as ever, costing millions of dollars for 30 seconds. So what gives?
Certainly, the release of the ads online before the game itself plays a part in reducing the kind of attention the Super Bowl commercials used to get during the game; but that wouldn’t speak to the ads’ lack of quality. Instead, one could point out another potential difference between this year’s ads and those of the past – their relatively benign nature.
There wasn’t anything particularly risqué this year, nothing offensive other than some mild double entendre on the word “caucus” in Amy Shumer and Seth Rogen’s Bud Light ad. It’s nice that this year’s Super Bowl advertisers kept it clean…except that in years past, some of the the least risqué ads were also the most memorable. Take Budweiser. Last year, they had an ad still in people’s memory, one that featured a puppy and some horses — probably the least risqué cast of all time. This year they had Helen Mirren, stooping as tastefully as possible to support a beverage I’d take odds she’s never sipped in her life. Clean, well-intentioned, but entirely un-notable. Benign, but…lame. This theme was writ large for the whole Super Bowl.
Which leads to the conclusion that perhaps it was just a matter of time. The Super Bowl is a behemoth — a massive, lumbering media monstrosity that attracts so much attention that even the flotsam gets its share. That this attention is probably undue has just been shown. In the end, the only thing that can be said about this year’s Super Bowl ad offering is what Panther fans were probably working up the courage to tell Cam Newton in the locker room: “Better luck next year.”