Super Bowl Commercials: Leno-Letterman spot takes the cake
This image provided by Snickers shows part of a television ad featuring actress Betty White scheduled to air during the 2010 Super Bowl.
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In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLIV, CBS found itself ensnared in controversy over a change in policy on advocacy ads that allowed a supposed anti-abortion spot by an anti-gay organization on the air six years after the network refused to air a Super Bowl commercial for the gay-welcoming United Church of Christ.
But a combination of the Tim Tebow Focus on the Family ad fizzling and a surprise Jay Leno cameo in a "Late Show with David Letterman" spot ensured the controversy has already been forgotten.
Instead, water cooler talk today will surely include the "Late Show" promotional spot.
A follow-up to a 2007 David Letterman-Oprah Winfrey ad for "Late Show with David Letterman," Sunday night's spot included an appearance by Mr. Leno, whom Mr. Letterman has been mocking mercilessly in the past month during the whole kerfluffle over Conan O'Brien leaving as host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" only to be replaced by Mr. Leno, who previously held the job.
"This is the worst Super Bowl party ever," Mr. Letterman said in the "Late Show" ad.
"Oh, Dave, be nice," Ms. Winfrey said before the camera shot widened to show Ms. Winfrey seated between Mr. Leno and Mr. Letterman.
"He's just saying that because I'm here," Mr. Leno said.
Mr. Letterman mimicked Mr. Leno's words in the same nasally imitation he's used on the "Late Show" in recent weeks.
CBS immediately sent out a release saying the spot would have just the one-time only Super Bowl airing (but you can watch at Tuned In Journal, if you missed it. The ad was filmed last week in New York. According to Entertainment Weekly, the spot was Mr. Letterman's idea with Mr. Leno and Ms. Winfrey willing to play along. The New York Times reported Mr. Leno entered the Ed Sullivan Theater, home of the "Late Show" where the ad was shot in 20 minutes, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and fake mustache to disguise his identity.
As for the controversial Tebow ad, it was expected to tell Pam Tebow's story of forgoing an abortion and continuing a medically risky pregnancy that resulted in Tim's birth. Instead, it featured Ms. Tebow talking innocuously about her "miracle baby," who tackled her mid-commercial, with no mention of abortion or her medical condition. If not for all the advance coverage, a viewer would have no idea there was a political message intended unless he or she read into the tag line at the end ("Celebrate Family. Celebrate Life.") or visited the organization's advertised website.
Overall, this year's ads were a similarly uninspired lot. But there were some commercials worth noting:
Best use of a national treasure: Does it get much better than seeing Betty White ("The Golden Girls") talking trash while playing football in a Snickers ad? Only when Abe Vigoda appears in the closing seconds.
Worst use of a novelty tune: Boost Mobile's attempt to revive the Chicago Bears' 1985 "Super Bowl Shuffle." Unfunny and likely incomprehensible to young consumers who were not born until years later.
Second worst use of ancient pop culture: The Chevy Chase-as-Clark Griswold ad. The "Vacation" movies were funnier than this, possibly including the awful "Vegas Vacation."
Best image spot: The simple, direct, evocative Google ad that showed all the stages of a romantic relationship through use of an Internet search engine. One of the few ads viewers are likely to remember fondly.
Biggest consistent misfire: The Doritos ads disappointed. From the dog with the anti-bark collar to the guy hiding in a coffin at his own funeral (huh? and why?), the "Snack Strong" chip was weak.
Strangest ad placement: CBS put two ads back-to-back both featuring people not wearing pants -- and neither spot was for underwear. What were the spots for? Who knows, all focus was on the weird pantsless trend.
Other network's shows get shoutouts: Sure, there were plenty of spots for CBS series, but other network shows also got attention: In addition to the reminder of NBC's "The Tonight Show" with the Jay Leno cameo, The Simpsons were in an ad for Coke; a Bud Light ad featured a crashed plane on a desert island, bringing to mind ABC's "Lost," and Michael C. Hall, star of Showtime's "Dexter," offered Dexter-like narration on a Dodge Charger commercial.
Theme of the night (aside from not wearing pants): Emasculated men were a recurring theme, appearing in commercials for Dodge Charger and Flo TV.
Animals everywhere (as usual): All creatures great and small made appearances during Super Bowl ads, including a beaver for Monster.com, screaming chickens for Denny's and a Clydesdale and bull friendship for Budweiser.
First Published February 8, 2010 12:00 am