2011 Super Bowl Ads: The Green, the Bad & the Ugly
Yet another Super Bowl has come and gone, and the one thing most of us will remember about the whole bloated, noisy event will be ... a cute kid with a Darth Vader mask using the force on a Passat. Super Bowl ads, for all their obnoxiousness and over-emphasis in the media, do provide us one of the best reflections on the current state of American consumer culture. This year was no different -- here's a look at what this year's commercials say about the nation's shopping habits ... Or at least, of course, what corporations would like our shopping habits to be. First up, let's do the Green -- which shouldn't take long, because mentions of anything of the sort were few and far between. In fact, it's a marked departure from trends of the last few years, which were stocked with Eco-Police parodies, ads for GE's smart grid technology, and hybrid cars.
This year, commercials advertising anything green were relegated to the auto department: Aside from a Hyundai spot touting fuel efficiency, this dramatic ad for the Chevy Volt was pretty much the only thing that could be considered out-and-out green in the whole show:
The bad is pretty easy, too -- it's also all car stuff. A full 18 of the 61 official Super Bowl ads were car ads (though one was the Volt). Two more were for Bridgestone tires, another two plugged Cars.com, and a final two advertised CarMax, the used car dealership. In other words, there's still a full-on blitz on American consumers trying to sell them on cars of every stripe.
The national fleet may have shed a few thousand cars over the last couple years, but don't think automakers are loosening their grips yet -- car culture still runs deep. This Chrysler ad in particular, starring Eminem, about how Detroit once was awesome for its car-building prowess, sucked for a little while, but is now awesome once again, is a full-bore assault on reviving the good ol' fashioned American car-loving status quo:
As for the ugly, how about this? A preemptive anti-soda tax (no such tax exists yet) that attempts to cash in on the oh-so-popular "government's getting too big" sentiment that industry groups love to exploit:
Also, you've got to love the narrator at the end who says "The government needs to trim its budget fat" -- which is precisely what something like a soda tax would help do, while cutting down on obesity rates in the process. Along with this explicit anti-soda tax ad, there were a number of ads for soda and junk food -- Coke, Pepsi, Doritos, and Snickers all made their usual attempts at humor to convince us to (continue to) eat and drink crap.
And that about sums it up -- there were the obligatory film trailers, and a good number of ads for gadgets and websites, but other than that, the Super Bowl paints a portrait of America a lot like the one you'd expect it too: A nation addicted to fossil fuel-guzzling cars, sugary, fatty foods, and the latest tech and entertainment to keep us adequately distracted -- and showing no signs of addressing its dependencies.
At least that obnoxious PETA ad didn't make the cut.