Americans are a funny bunch. We Canadians don’t understand why they’re so loud sometimes, or whether Donald Trump is a Disney character or an actual politician, or why no one down here understands the proper use of “eh?” or “washroom.”
The thing that we do understand is that the Super Bowl is A Very Big Deal, and companies that want to become A Very Big Deal seem to understand this as well.
This season, companies spent an average of $4.8 million for a 30-second spot, for a record total of $377 million — $26 million more than last year. According to Advertising Age, the total amount spent on Super Bowl advertisements over the last 50 years was $5.9 billion (adjusted for inflation) and 45.2% of that was spent from 2010-2016 alone. All that effort in the hopes that their 30 seconds will be the ones that people won’t be able to forget.
It’s quite obvious to me that, as such a large event, the Super Bowl’s ads must comprise the very heart of American culture. As a helpful, tactful favour to the United States, I’ve provided the following list of true facts and opinions (because Canada, of course, is the mother of all well-grounded opinions) on these tender nuggets of the American soul.
Most Outdated Ad: “First Date”
First off, let’s talk about how terribly freakin’ OLD the “overprotective father” trope has become. Gone are the days where you can safely joke about pulling out the old threatening shotgun or writing rules on how handsy/late/clothed/unclothed the date of your fine-bosomed delicate flower can or cannot be tonight. Every woman – yes, even the plump-lipped, stuffy-loving beauty – is her own autonomous, decision-making person. Stalking one with fancy technology and shark helicopters, even though she is the fruit of your very own loins, will get you an eye-roll or a restraining order, not buy-in on your…wait, what were they selling in this ad?
Most Funny Ad: “Unfiltered Talk”
Because I am Canadian, I was automatically endowed at birth with an exceptionally fine taste for comedy. This is why I can authoritatively pronounce this ad to be the pinnacle of witty banter with lines I will probably try on an unsuspecting recipient of my sublime comedic talent at my next visit to the bar. The ad’s understated, slow-moving pub setting underscores the delightful speed of repartée between T.J. Miller and his cheeky orange buddy as they skirt that delirious line between stupidity and hilarity. With clear, almost subliminally-repetitive product placement that is easy to spot without obstructing the ad’s entertainment factor, this is a product I can get behind – or pour down my throat. Good job, Shock Top.
Most Controversial Ad: Mini USA’s “Defy Labels”
Okay, American friends, this one’s kinda serious. Here we have a bunch of people calling cars things like “chic,” “gay,” “cute,” and “kidless” – presumably, meaning these cars are designed for people who fit those categories. Segmentation, targeting, okay. I get it. But here’s what the famous guy says to top it all off: “This car doesn’t care what you call it.” Which seems, at first, like an incredibly badass thing to say – except this is an absolute reversal of all conscientiously-minded, anti-racism, -sexism, -sizeism and other –ism dialogue. Instead of the onus being placed on the labeler to refrain from labeling, you have a middle-aged white man (perhaps, symbolically, the pinnacle of white privilege) exhorting the virtues of a labelee throwing off its/his/her labels. In other words, this ad is saying that if you have a problem with being labeled, you should just stop letting it bother you. Mini Cooper, I can tell you’re trying to be culturally relevant here, but. Sorry, try again.
Most Touching Ad: Audi’s “Commander”
Even from all the way up in the great white North, we know that David Bowie was something else. And so it’s fitting that there would be a tribute to him embedded in an American celebratory gathering of Super Bowl scale. Even though the parallel between the Audi R8 and a spaceship is a bit of a stretch, this ad is tasteful, tactful, and references a frontier that speaks to something that has been true about America since the Cold War – and perhaps before. You guys explore the shit out of things, and you do it with ferocity, dedication and soul. That reference to the moon just puts the final swoon on this ad and now I want an Audi.
Hands-Down, Bring-Me-the-Mic, Drop-Dead Best Ad
Was not an ad. Bow down to Queen Bey.