Super Bowl Commercial Shootaround: All the Fast Cars, Cool Insurance, and Unfathomable Sadness We Can Sell You Between Timeouts

Universal Pictures


Holly Anderson: I’m writing this almost cold, after one viewing during the Super Bowl, no advance viewing online. I wanted to watch the trailer for the first time during the game, in a casual party setting, to see if I could make it through even a trailer’s worth of footage without either tearing up at the blockbuster swan song for Paul Walker or unconsciously scrutinizing his every appearance for evidence of uncanny valley CGI work on his body doubles. And then they blew up our heroes’ home base in East L.A., and oh my god, buildings are fleeting, just like people, just like life, AND THEN A CAR FLEW OUT THE SIDE OF A SKYSCRAPER AND ACROSS A WHOLE BUNCH OF AIR REAL HIGH UP AND INTO ANOTHER SKYSCRAPER. It’s OK. It’s all gonna be OK. It’s OK to feel again, and to live while we can.


That car, as near as we could tell in between shrieks of abject glee, is a W Motors Lykan Hypersport. Only seven are going to be made, each of which costs something like three and a half million dollars, and the headlights contain actual diamonds. It’s built in the UAE, which makes for a nice little bit of verisimilitude in the Dubai scene in the trailer, a scene in which A CAR FLIES OUT THE SIDE OF A SKYSCRAPER AND ACROSS A WHOLE BUNCH OF AIR REAL HIGH UP AND INTO ANOTHER SKYSCRAPER. That’s very thoughtful.

The Lowe Ascendance: Clydesdales vs. Wolves

Brian Phillips: “Hi, I’m Rob Lowe.”

“And I’m Clydesdale Rob Lowe who is about to fight a wolf.”

“I have DirecTV, with the advanced receiver that gives me access to all my favorite shows.”

“And I have a wolf that is about to get its shit fucked up.”

“With DirecTV, I get to see the shows I want, when I want to see them.”

“With this wolf that my buddies and I are about to skull-stampede, I have an imminently downed abject goddamn wolf that is about to be a nonfactor in this joyful reunion with my puppy friend.”

“DirecTV gives me access to On Demand, with thousands of movies, trailers, and TV shows.”

“This wolf gives my giant hoof access to its running-away-in-terror wolf ass.”

“Don’t be like this me. Sign up for DirecTV today.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to be like this me? I’m an unbelievably powerful animal with a crew of awesome friends. You’re watching Mad About You on a platform bed; we’re about to crank the Proclaimers and flip the food chain upside down.”

“I … I don’t … ”

“I’m the best Rob Lowe. Me. This horse.”

“This is … ”

“Are you threatening my puppy?”

“No! I … ”

“Clydesdale Rob Lowe who is about to fight a wolf is the only Rob Lowe that matters.”

Nationwide Is on Your [Sobs Inconsolably]

Jason Concepcion: The current state of sad-times television advertising traces its genesis back to 2007 and “The Wheel” episode of Mad Men. Ever since Don Draper tapped into deep reservoirs of sincere sentimentality with his prestige-drama presentation for a slide projector that used pictures of his own fictional kids, real-life commercials have been increasingly rife with moms, dutiful dads, heartfelt narrations, piano music, puppies, kids, and more kids.

In that sense, I guess Nationwide’s by-now-infamous “Dead Kid” commercial is simply the natural evolutionary step in the medium. The theme of sad-times ads in the post-carousel era is an awareness that we are all marching inexorably toward the grave, which presents the products and brands available to us in the here and now as more empathic and emotionally satisfying. Life is short! Buy better stuff! Where do you go from there? A child being like, “I died in an accident,” I guess. Nationwide is on your siiiiiiide.

You’ll Know We’ll Have a Good Time Then

Mark Lisanti: Dad was there for the birth. He made sure of that. First son, he was going to be there, absolutely. But he’d be on the track two days later, once Mom was out of the hospital and back up on her feet. No, Mom didn’t approve of the racing. Moms never approve of the racing. But it put food on the table, even if it took Dad away in a cab again and again to drive his cars, his fast Nissan cars, all over the world, because Dad had two families, and one of those families was Nissan Racing. Mom always threatened that one day she’d make him choose. She’d start singing “Cat’s in the Cradle” the minute Dad left for a race, and she wouldn’t stop singing it until he returned home.

Billy hated that song. It was the sound of Dad’s absence, a musical hole ripped in the center of their family. They almost lost him to a wet track, right there on the television, and Billy couldn’t hear the murmured concern of the announcers as they narrated the wreck, only the deafening force of Harry Chapin’s words inside his head. Harry Chapin was killed in a car crash, Billy had learned when Mom told him to Google the lyrics when he was old enough to understand, and he despised the song more than ever watching Dad finally emerge from the smoking shell of his Nissan.

Dad kept racing. There would be more taxi rides and more nights alone with Mom humming that goddamn tune as she stirred the pasta in the pot, hit the buttons on the microwave in time to the silent beat. There would be a separation. Then more than a separation. Weekend custody. Then alternate weekends.

But there was always Nissan. On the track. On the TV. At the curb, unexpectedly picking him up after band practice, windows rolled down so that Billy could stare back into sad eyes like his. “Check out my new wheels,” Dad would say after a welcoming hug, always a little too tight. “It’s got Pandora built in.”

“It keeps playing this amazing song. Harry something. You know it?”

Cheeseheads With Perfect Pitch

Juliet Litman: Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers! Not only must the Seahawks live with a crushing loss, but Clay Matthews, David Bakhtiari, T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton, Don Barclay, and Jordan Rodgers1 somehow overshadowed the eminently likable Anna Kendrick in her own trailer.

Pitch Perfect 2 teaser dropped last night, thereby saving this broadcast from previously unknown levels of melancholy. Rebel Wilson’s voice-over gave way to a peek at the sequel’s riff-off scene.2 Anna K. leads her Bella squad in a solid rendition of “Before He Cheats,” but it’s the Packers singing “Bootylicious” that matters. Kendrick recently told Seth Meyers that the movie’s producers reached out after seeing the Packers discussing the movie on Twitter. Apparently, they had memorized the entire final number from the first movie, and it looks like that enthusiasm was applied to the Destiny’s Child track. I guess they didn’t care that it’s a lesser song from the catalogue. Maybe it’s for the best that the Packers didn’t make it to the Super Bowl. I wouldn’t have wanted anything to take away from this solid performance.

Dove Men: You’re a Good Dad, We Promise

Shea Serrano: I watched the Super Bowl with two of my three sons. I didn’t let the baby stay because he’s a baby and so, I mean, whatever. He’s cute in pictures but annoying in real life and so he went with my wife to some get-together thing. So it was me and the twins. They’re 7 years old. It was the first Super Bowl we’ve actively watched together. We got wings and fries and drinks and all that. It was cool. They were mildly interested for the first quarter, 10 percent interested by the second, 100 percent interested for halftime, then zero percent interested for the third and fourth quarters, and that’s about exactly how I’d imagined it was going to go. The Dove Men commercial, that one came on pretty early in the game, so the boys were still sitting on the couch next to me when it played.

I love dad commercials. I love dad anythings, really. But that one, which featured quick shots of kids of different ages in different scenes calling for their dads, was neat to watch with my sons there, because a lot of the stuff that they showed in the commercial is stuff I’ve done with them (the swimming pool thing, the high chair thing, the potty thing, the T-shirt thing, the crying kid thing, the monkey bars thing, the tickling thing, the swing thing, the playground thing, the spinning-the-kid thing), and so I was glad to see that TV thinks I’m doing at least an OK job. Halfway through the third quarter, one of the boys ran to his room, grabbed a football, then brought it in the front room and asked me if I wanted to play catch. It was very sweet and very cute and I’m going to be very sad when they get to the age when they don’t feel compelled to do those sorts of things. But still, I said, “I know you see me watching this game right now, boy. I know you see it’s close, don’t you? Sit down.” And he sat down with his football. That part wasn’t in the commercial. It should’ve been.


Why didn’t Russell just give the ball to Marshawn?

Coca-Cola: Because the Internet

Dave Schilling: In this year’s Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial/Black Mirror spec episode, some clumsy goofus in a server room (helpfully labeled “Internet Server” in case all the wires and Matrix lighting weren’t enough to clue you in) spills a bit of Coke into some doodads and ushers in a Utopian dream world where news commenters hug and hilarious baby memes appear out of nowhere to keep you from committing suicide while you wait for the bus. This soda virus infects the entire World Wide Web, making anyone and everyone who comes in contact with it deliriously happy. With their free will stolen from them, the human race devolves into grinning sock puppets who can’t help but hug each other for no reason. Kinda like an episode of Oprah.

I, for one, am thrilled that this commercial advocates for the natural healing power of soda. I’ve been pushing for cola as a cure-all for years now. Yes, Coke can bring about world peace when you pour it inside the internet, but it can do so much more. I pour soda on open wounds, feed it to my sick cats, and sterilize hypodermic needles with it. Maybe if Pete Carroll drank more Coca-Cola, he wouldn’t have called for a pass play on second-and-goal with 20 seconds left in the Super Bowl when he has the best running back in the league on his team. Of course, soda can also “magically” give you diabetes and melt your teeth, but at least no one is calling you names on Facebook anymore, right? To all impressionable youth out there, I say pour soda on your laptops; especially those of you responsible for the fappening. Dump a whole two-liter of pop on all your electronics — laptops, tablets, TVs, gaming systems, etc. Trust me, it’s for the best.

McDonald’s Is Lovin’ You

Rembert Browne: While it was a nice departure from dad-targeted dad content (#dadtent), the McDonald’s Super Bowl commercial was the most troublesome moment of the evening if you care about public safety.

The premise of the spot was people going to McDonald’s (in the daytime, which is an issue in itself) and getting free food if they gave someone a hug or told someone they loved them or used a lifeline like John Carpenter simply to tell his dad that he was about to win $1 million.

On the surface, it’s cute. For a limited time, McDonald’s is in the business of randomly assigning free QPCs if you text your greatest enemy the red-dress-lady emoji.

But just imagine this: You’re in a good mood, go to McDonald’s, walk through the door, give high fives to everyone in the room, then approach the register expecting to be rewarded and they’re like, “You still have to pay.”

What happens next I don’t want to type out. But it’s not pretty.

If you’re dining at McDonald’s and see someone not get the randomly assigned corporate-kindness discount (which I can only assume is dished out as frequently as Park Place and Boardwalk), RUN.

So thanks, McDonald’s, for turning a simple fast food dining experience into a potential episode of Snapped.

This Jeep Is Your Jeep, This Jeep Is My Jeep

Katie Baker: There wasn’t much flashy about Jeep’s commercial for its new off-road-lite model Renegade. Piping recognizable Americana music over footage of see-it-before-you-die places with an occasional drive-by from the featured car is Automotive Marketing 101. When the chosen song is a cover of folk legend Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” though, nothing can be that simple, because nothing about his music is.

Guthrie conceived of the song in 1940 as a reaction to the preeminent patriotic anthem making the rounds at the time: the treacly “God Bless America.” His original title was “God Blessed America,” and it included a couple verses that are angrier and more pointed, like, “By the relief office I saw my people/ as they stood there hungry, I stood there wondering if / God blessed America for me.” (The underlying tune wasn’t his — he had borrowed it from a Carter Family album; they in turn had borrowed it from an old Baptist tune.)

Thanks to some legal confusion, the copyright for the song expired in 1973 — although, according to LibraryLaw Blog, some notes he scrawled in a song book suggest he might have been fine with that. “Anybody caught singin it without our permission,” he wrote, “will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”

Jeep isn’t the only brand to have taken him up on the offer. This fall, the North Face put out a commercial that was almost identical to Jeep’s recent offering — a fact not lost on the outraged performance-fleece-wearing, off-road-vehicle-driving consumers among us. (This is basically the Sam Smith–Tom Petty situation, except with more outdoorsy yuppies.) I liked the North Face’s commercial better, personally, because its cover by My Morning Jacket incorporates the best, most beautifully stubborn lyric of Guthrie’s whole song: “As I went walking I saw a sign there / And on the sign it said ‘No Trespassing’ / But on the other side it didn’t say nothing / That side was made for you and me.”

Bud: Brewed the Hard Way, Craft-Beer-Loving Assholes

Amos Barshad: This commercial is great because it makes fun of Brooklyn. Brooklyn is where I live. And yes, it does at times feature bearded gentlemen sitting in well-lit bars on Sunday afternoons — their dogs within petting range, their children a stroller handle away — enjoying some meticulously brewed craft beer. This is, by most accounts, a perfectly great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. But then you see this bit of jumbled fast-cut nonsense and all you really wanna do is sit on a porch and have someone literally toss you a Bud you unself-consciously refer to as a “cold one.” And even though you’re draped in the star-spangled banner in a manner so emphatic that it’s covering your eyes a bit, and even though you have Revolutionary War–era muskets in both hands because what if the British come back, you catch it perfectly and you glug down that sweet taste of nothing and then you stand up and salute your dog — who is also holding two muskets, and who is winking at you with pride — and you say GOD BLESS AMERICA and GOD BLESS THE INBEV CORPORATION, the BELGIUM-HEADQUARTERED PARENT COMPANY OF THE MIGHTY BUDWEISER (TM).


Filed Under: Super Bowl XLIX, Commercials, TV