Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Iraq Super Bowl

With 93m Americans tuning in to the Super Bowl and some detected the war in Iraq just below the surface.

Two years ago Budweiser ran a patriotic spot paying tribute to US troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There was nothing like that at Super Bowl XLI where the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears 29-17.

Instead, more than a dozen spots celebrated violence in an exaggerated or cartoo- like fashion, which was intended to be funny but according to the New York Times was often cruel or callous.

In a Bud Light beer spot, one man beats another at a game of rock, paper, scissors by throwing a rock at his opponent’s head. Ouch.

In another Bud Light ad, face slapping, reminiscent of happy slapping, replaces knuckle touching as a greeting.

It gets worse, an astronaut is apparently wiped out by a meteor hitting the moon in a Fedex spot.

Others, noted by the NY Times’ are a bank robbery for E*Trade Financial, fierce battles among office workers trapped in a jungle for CareerBuilder, menacing hitchhikers for Bud Light, and a clash between a monster and a superhero reminiscent of a horror movie for Garmin.

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A Deutsch ad for General Motors had a factory robot obsessed about quality imagining the dire outcome of making a mistake. And, of course, there was TM Advertising's spot for Nationwide Financial with Mr Britney Kevin Federline as a rap star only to find that it’s a dream and in reality his life is a fast-food joint. If only.

"It was as if Madison Avenue were channelling Doc in 'West Side Story', the gentle owner of the candy store in the neighbourhood that the two street gangs, the Jets and Sharks, fight over. 'Why do you kids live like there's a war on?' Doc asks plaintively. (Well, Doc, this time, there is.)"

So what exactly is Madison Avenue up to? Usually it’s the place to find the peaceniks. Well, you would have done in the days of the Vietnam war. It was that conflict that gave rise to the classic Coke spot “hilltop” and a rendition of ‘I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony". Peace in our ad break.

Then, too, there was the unfortunate homonym at the heart of a commercial from Prudential Financial, titled “what can a rock do?”. The problem with the spot, created internally at Prudential, was that whenever the announcer said “a rock” -- invoking the Prudential logo, the rock of Gibraltar -- it sounded as if he were saying, yes, “Iraq”.

"To be sure, sometimes 'a rock' is just 'a rock', and someone who has watched the Super Bowl XIX years in a row only for the commercials may be inferring things that Madison Avenue never meant to imply."

So as George W Bush gives one last push is Madison Avenue and the advertisers of America hanging on in there as well? It certainly doesn't seem to be calling for the troops to come home.

More on the Super Bowl in the New York Times.


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