Advertising romance: Gone in 30 seconds – Pt. 4 – I Can’t Wait for the Superbowl Because-

Michael Garberich

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So here’s where the fish get fishier, and their fishiness seeps into our olfactory epithelia.

A couple Sundays ago, you probably noticed that the pug-faced quarterback of the New York Giants, Eli Manning, led a group of enormous men to a rather thrilling upset over a near-perfect Tom Brady and his near-perfect New England Patriots. You probably also noticed a lot of 30-second vignettes periodically flashing for several minutes in between all the running around. And maybe you even noticed some of the names associated with these 30-second vignettes – names you recognized, like Pepsi and Budweiser, and others you didn’t recognize, like SalesGenie and Garmin, though with a little hope, you will.

I didn’t. But that’s because I don’t have a TV antenna, or apparently, as I’ve now volunteered to the world (wide web), any friends to invite me to watch the game with them.

I do, however, have the internet (because television is passé, but the internet is Here. To. Stay!). So on the Monday immediately after, I watched the Ten Best Super Bowl commercials online thanks to AOL Sports – I’d just like to give a shout out to Time Warner, and all the people who stuck with us to make this dream a reality.

My analytic method is just barely scientific, if having 256 kilobits per second of broadband internet connection is science. Most of the data came to me presorted and lightening quick. I only had to observe and interpret.

From the sixty-three 30-second slots, AOL has ranked, with your help, the top 10 commercials of Super Bowl XLII. You’ve probably already seen some of them, or all of them – a down-and-out Clydesdale trains with an ambitious Dalmatian to the theme from Rocky; a soft-spoken, precocious toddler shares his online trading experiences via webcam; Justin Timberlake is pulled by a mysterious force to the feet of a teenage girl tanning in her lawn and sipping soda through a straw; then he’s hit in the head by a flatscreen television. The same techniques we know and love – animals, babies, and celebrities. Of the other seven ads, the baby makes a second appearance, a squirrel, lizards, pigeons and a mouse (sort of) scream, dance, deliver mail and burst through walls to eat cheese flavored corn chips. Giant balloons soar after beverages, and in one ad, we learn how Houston Texan offensive lineman, Chester Pitts, wound up in the NFL.

Anyone who has watched television in the last twenty years is familiar with the commercial use of children, animals and celebrities, so I realize this is not exactly cutting edge, yet. Michael Jackson sold Pepsi in the 1980s (and burned his hair doing it), and now Naomi Cambell and a troupe of lizards are dancing to the King of Pop’s “Thriller” while slurping flavored water, and, it seems, drops of life (PepsiCo is SoBe’s parent company). Mikey’s liked it since the 1970s, and Lyndon B. Johnson saved us from the clutches of destruction by dropping a bomb on a young girl who couldn’t count to eight. Then there’s that ironic Gecko with the Cockney accent, who emerged when the Screen Actor’s Guild went on strike in 1999, temporarily eliminating the use of many celebrities (Wikipedia, again). The gecko eventually became a celebrity of its own, or, at least an icon – like how Woody and Buzz laid a bridge between the 20th and the 21st centuries, and the diaper baby can now be looked at as an early indication of our latent pedophilia (now replaced by the indomitable safety of NBC’s square-jawed Chris Hansen) – the gecko is an icon for the self-effacing bureaucrat. So it goes.

But an important side-effect has come from these techniques, and that is: less and less is being said, but cheese flavored corn chips are still being eaten, Justin Timberlake and Naomi Cambell are still looking gorgeous, men are still finding clever ways to drink beer, and in 15 minutes, we are still able to save 15 percent or more on car insurance, or so I’ve heard.

The most marked aspect of the Top 10 commercials isn’t how many animals, babies and celebrities are being used to get us to buy things we may not want. The oddest thing about these commercials – Your Ten Favorite – is how little dialogue is exchanged during them.

We’ve all focused on the wrong aspect of the child-animal-celebrity commercial. The problem isn’t that children, animals and celebrities are used in commercials; the problem is that 30 seconds is never enough time to carry on a meaningful conversation, and children, animals and celebrities are the best things to just look at if you’re trying to avoid a conversation. Advertisers know this unconsciously, or they seem to.

Imagine you spot your ex walking toward you on the sidewalk, the distance between you diminishing by the second as you fumble for what to say. Your ex’s jaw drops in disbelief, when suddenly Justin Timberlake passes over your right shoulder with his d*ck in a box, drinking a Pepsi.

You might say: “Did you just see Justin Timberlake with his d*ck in a box?”

And your ex might say: “Yes. Yes I did just see Justin Timberlake with his d*ck in a box.”

But no one would say: “Did you just see Justin Timberlake drinking that Pepsi? I’d love a Pepsi.”

If you’ve ever approached a stranger and tried to have a compelling, moving conversation in 30 seconds, only to wind up feeling kind of foolish and uncomfortable, you know what I mean. And if you’ve ever watched a squirrel eat a nut, or a bun crumb, and laughed to yourself, you also know what I mean. If you remain skeptical, try staring at a guy/girl who catches your eye on your way to class and laughing at them. You may also try offering them a Pepsi. But if you really want to get them talking, offer them a Justin Timberlake.

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