TINSMAN: Era of funny Super Bowl commercials is over

Brian Tinsman
February 04, 2020 - 9:46 am
Era of funny Super Bowl commercials is over

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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It's been a long time coming, but it's time to face reality: it's safe to go to the bathroom again during a Super Bowl commercial break.

It used to be a difficult decision, with brands pouring tens of millions of dollars into advertising production and placement, using funny stories to sell the world's largest brands.

But somewhere along the way, companies lost their way. Maybe it was a growing desire to express core values, overzealous censorship on the part of the NFL, or a shift in what viewers want.

Regardless, the age of funny Super Bowl ads is dead.

Sunday's game had a little bit of everything, with former Redskins players (Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller) and coaches (Kyle Shanahan, et al), a competitive game, the return of the sexy halftime show, and solidly OK officiating.

Between the action, the best reaction went to Bill Murray in a Jeep spot that leveraged his iconic role in Groundhog Day to promote the Rubicon. But was the ad actually funny, or just a clever play on nostalgia? Murray is a legend, but this was little more than good timing.

The same can probably be said for Cheetos popcorn, unveiled in an ad that featured MC Hammer singing his 1990 hit, "U Can't Touch This." Clever, yes, but the ad doesn't hold up if you're younger than 35.

Snickers had the underrated hit of the night, ripping all things pop culture in a 30-second song about selfies, sending nudes, e-scooters, spying digital assistants, etc. What this ad accomplished that others could not is a healthy dose of "controversy," done in a way that even the ad's victims can appreciate.

On the flip side, the worst ad was Google's tearjerker of an elderly man remembering details of his life with his wife, Loretta. The man was afraid that he might forget important details of their lives together and had no one to share them with besides Google.

The ad spot was so wretchedly depressing that it sucked the life out Super Bowl parties across the country. Throw in how Google mines people's information to send them advertising, and you can only imagine what this poor man's search results would look like.

Did you watch the Super Bowl in order to get away from partisan politics? Too bad! Super Bowl audiences also saw a handful of ads from President Donald Trump and his Democratic challengers.

Elsewhere, Mountain Dew Zero Sugar with Bryan Cranston, Sabra with 19 pop culture references, Tide's long-running bit with Charlie Day, and Rocket Mortgage with Jason Momoa were all varying degrees of clever, but came up short on comedic value.

All good things must come to an end, and funny Super Bowl commercials are no different. It's been a good run! But for Super Bowl LV, feel free to grab a beer and hit the bathroom during the commercial breaks.

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.

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