Super Bowl advertisers, no doubt sensing there is enough sadnesss in this world with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton making runs at the White House, have decided this year to forgo ads in which little dead boys warn about the danger of bathtubs. Advertisers have determined that what people most want to see during their game breaks this year is not adorable puppies or funny monkeys or talking babies — and especially not actors playing dead children.
Lots and lots of celebrities. A virtual awards ceremony red carpet’s worth of celebrities.
Last year’s game was played at the end of a football season in which the NFL got pounded with reports of abuse against women, children and even footballs. The spots during the game were a lot less snarky and more somber than in past years. The league itself ran a PSA about domestic abuse, Coca-Cola aired one about cyber-bullying and Nationwide Insurance aired that ad featuring a little boy complaining he can’t go sailing with his dog or learn to ride a bike or look forward to getting married. Because he’d died. Of an entirely preventable household accident. Viewers, not wanting a dead boy haunting their Super Bowl fun and objected on social media in no uncertain terms.
Advertisers got the message.
This is not to say there won’t be some sober points made in this year’s ads. Literally. Budweiser has enlisted a celebrity, Dame Helen Mirren, for the company’s first anti-drunk driving Super Bowl PSA since 2005. It’s fitting given that about 10,000 drunk-driving fatalities are reported in this country each year, and Super Bowl Sunday tends also to be the Super Bowl of drunk-driving days, according to various official reports.
Mirren, you’ll recall, landed Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for Trumbo and a SAG nomination for Woman In Gold but got snubbed on Oscar nom morning. Mirren will get the last laugh when she is prominently featured during Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 – last year’s game having clocked a record 114.5 million viewers, or more than three times the Academy Awards’ 37 million.
The famously blunt actress this weekend will tell more her than 100 million-plus viewers that if they drive home drunk they will be filed under “Short Sighted Utterly Useless Oxygen Wasting Human Form of Pollution.”
“Don’t be a pillock,” Mirren will advise viewers. “This is supposed to be fun!” – all words you’ll never hear in an Academy Awards acceptance speech, more’s the pity:
In another cause-y ad, toothpaste giant Colgate — making its Super Bowl debut toward the end of the game — will dramatically explain how many gallons of water you waste when you run the tap while brushing:
And an Audi ad, while not a PSA, will remind us heartbreakingly that David Bowie died last month at age 69 in an ad featuring Bowie’s Starman on the soundtrack as an aged, depressed ex-astronaut comes back to life when his son gets him behind the wheel of his new Audi R8 V10 Plus:
But mostly on Sunday you’ll notice the degree to which Madison Avenue execs decided that, this year, celebrities would make their ads stand out in what’s traditionally the most cluttered broadcast of any year. Unless, of course, they’re all using them. Then, the celebrities run the danger of becoming … what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh yeah – clutter.
Aerosmith frontman (and former American Idol judge) Steven Tyler, meanwhile, will push Skittles:
Christopher Walken will plug for Kia:
Alec Baldwin will demonstrate the Amazon Echo in the retail giant’s first Super Bowl ad:
Liam Neeson will tout LG electronics:
Ryan Reynolds will be all over Hyundai’s commercial:
Serena Williams will join more celebs than you can stuff into a Mini Cooper in touting that vehicle line:
T.J. Miller gets into a war of words with an orange slice in beer brand Shock Top’s first Super Bowl ad:
Drake spoofs “Hotline Bling” for T-Mobile:
And Willem Dafoe will dress up as Marilyn Monroe, who also has been exhumed to sell Snickers:
Do not despair, lovers of cute canines. Not all Super Bowl advertisers have forsaken you:
And Mountain Dew, making its Super Bowl return after 16 years, decided to hedge its bets by grafting all the recent Most Adorable Super Bowl Ad Tropes – puppies and babies and monkeys – into one compellingly disturbing Puppymonkeybaby:
Meanwhile, marmots are making their Super Bowl debut:
Honda, for its part, is banking on sheep. Enchanting, Queen-singing sheep so irresistible you may not notice at first that what Honda is pitching here is its 2016 Honda Ridgeline being the first truck with an available truck-bed audio system. Practically speaking, this means sheep, bales of hay, tag sale finds and college dorm furniture lucky enough to be transported in the back of a ’16 Ridgeline – and drivers stuck next to the vehicle on the 405 at rush hour – need never be in doubt as to the driver’s taste in music.