Super Bowl ads: Betty White, Bud Light, big laughs
AP Marketing Writer
NEW YORK — The laughs are back. Betty White plays football, babies talk about "milkaholics" and a house made of Bud Light cans falls slowly apart. It must be the Super Bowl — or at least the advertising showcase that entertains amid the gridiron action.
The commercials got off to a funny start Sunday night on CBS, with companies like Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola going straight for chuckles.
Villanova marketing professor Charles R. Taylor said the light-hearted tone is working this year because the ads still manage to tell people what the brands stand for. It marks a turn from last year, when advertisers took a more somber tone amid the still deepening recession.
But not every commercial was strictly humorous. Automaker Toyota aired several pregame ads to reassure worried owners after its recalls connected with accelerator problems.
And a commercial by conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, perhaps the most anticipated ad of the night, hinted at a serious subject although it took a humorous tone too. Heisman winner Tim Tebow and his mother talk about her difficult pregnancy with him and how she was advised to end the pregnancy — implying an antiabortion message — but ended with Tebow tackling his mom and saying the family must be "tough."
But for the most part, it was a return to humor — and to mentioning specifics about products.
Taylor said he had been disappointed in at least the past five Super Bowls in terms of the effectiveness of ads in connecting with products, but this year he's pleased.
He cited a commercial by tiremaker Bridgestone featuring men carrying a whale in the back of their truck, and one by Dove launching its new men's skin care line. He said they were winners because they manage to entertain while telling people about the brands. The ad for Dove, which is owned by Unilever, tells the story of boy growing into a man and telling of signal events in a man's life.
"So far from what I've seen I'm quite positively imrpessed, more than I thought I would be," he said.
A first Super Bowl by ad Google — which rarely does television advertising — has an affecting ad that tells the story of a relationship through a series of Google searches, beginning with "study abroad" and "how to impress a French woman" and ends with "how to assemble a crib."
Not all ads were winners, though. Taylor said an ad by Boost Mobile, Sprint's pre-paid cellular phone service, didn't work because it depended too heavily on the Super Bowl Shuffle, which features the 1985 Chicago Bears. That's a reference that could be too old for the brand's intended buyers.