Fun, weirdness in ads lighten gloom

People | ASSOCIATED PRESS 4 Feb 2020

In the real world for Americans, political primaries are looming, impeachment is ongoing and bad news never seems to stop. But during commercial breaks in the Super Bowl, advertisers did their best to serve up an antidote heavily spiked with fun.

Political ads did invade the game, with US President Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg, one of his Democratic challengers, both running spots. But mostly advertisers struck back with millions spent on celebrities, humor and even some weirdness.

Since the Super Bowl fell on Groundhog Day this year it was inevitable that there would be a nod to the classic 1993 movie.

Jeep took the ball and ran with it, painstakingly recreating the town square and other locations from the film and casting original actors Bill Murray, Brian Doyle Murray and Stephen Tobolowsky.

The twist was instead of a Chevrolet truck, Murray used a Jeep Gladiator truck for his daily exploits.

Cheetos capitalized on nostalgia by using the 30-year-old MC Hammer classic U Can't Touch This.

The snack-food ad featured a man with bright orange Cheetos dust on his hands who can't stop to help move furniture or take care of office tasks.

Hammer himself - Hammer pants and all - also kept popping up to utter his iconic catchphrase.

If ads starred one celebrity, they often had more. Coke launched Coke Energy with an ad showing actor Jonah Hill rallying to meet Martin Scorsese at a party by drinking Coke's new energy drink.

But stuffing celebrities in ads doesn't always work. Hard Rock International enlisted Michael Bay for a frenetic commercial showing a frenzied heist caper involving Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, DJ Khaled, Pitbull and Steven Van Zandt.

Charles Taylor, marketing professor at Villanova University, said many ads were busy with a lot going on.

"They're going by quickly and it is hard to pick everything up,'' he said.

Super Bowl always attracts automakers launching new vehicles, and this year nearly every carmaker touted an electric car.

Audi showed Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams singing Let it Go to promote Audi's suite of electric vehicles.

Hummer introduced Hummer EV with a cinematic black-and-white ad touting how quiet yet powerful the car is.

Porsche promoted its Taycan electric car with a frenetic car chase. And Ford showed off its electric Mustang with the help of Idris Elba.

A tinge of weirdness crept into this years barrage of humor and celebrities.

Quicken Loans Rocket Mortgage had an unsettling ad that showed Aquaman star Jason Momoa, known for his buff physique, heading home to "be himself" - as he strips off his muscles and hair to reveal he is skinny and bald.

TurboTax tried to tie doing taxes into a CGI-enhanced dance of wobbling knees to a bouncy song All People Are Tax People.

Snickers imagined a world where people sing on a hilltop - in homage to a famous Hilltop Coke ad - about digging a hole and putting a giant Snickers in it because the world is out of sorts.

And Pringle's enlisted Adult Swim's animated Rick and Morty duo with a meta ad in which the characters realize they're stuck inside a Pringles commercial.

Advertisers worked hard to avoid the return of "sadvertising'' from a few years back - when Nationwide Insurance did an ad about a child who died, among other gloomy spots - and generally steered clear of polarizing issues like income inequality or immigration as seen in 2017.

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