Super Bowl ads replace creativity with lazy humor

What might be even more famous than the Super Bowl are its highly anticipated—and usually over-the-top—commercials. While people who are uninterested in sports often say, “I’m only watching the Super Bowl for the commercials,” we think—after seeing the commercials this year—that that notion might be more of a spectacle that the football game itself.

Super Bowl commercials increase in ridiculousness and desperation every year. Instead of trying to sell a product in a clever and attractive way, many commercials rely on absurdity and base humor in the hopes that the consequent attention on social media will be the better advertisement. Capitalizing on young consumers’ “addiction” to smartphones and viral Internet videos may sound like a smart tactic, but in practice, it leaves us feeling patronized, confused and uncomfortable while we watch ads such as Mountain Dew’s “Puppy Monkey Baby.”

Mountain Dew’s commercial is the epitome of the “viral video” tactic advertisers are increasingly starting to adopt. For this ad, a weird, unsettling hybrid creature of a puppy, monkey and a baby does not make sense for selling a soda drink. A strange commercial that garners media attention may not necessarily lead to an increase in product sales—if it’s weird enough it could even lead to a decrease—but at least people are talking about Mountain Dew.

Reebok produced a Super Bowl commercial in 2003 called “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker” based on an existing marketing campaign. The commercial followed Tate around an unassuming office where he tackled his coworkers for taking long breaks and playing solitaire. The ad was hilarious and smart, completely different from this year’s ads. Now, companies like Mountain Dew are appealing to our lowest senses and expecting similar results.

If companies spend millions of dollars a year on commercials that last only a minute on our television screens, we expect them to be good. Maybe it is time the weird ones will inspire us to care less about the capitalization of the Super Bowl and just enjoy the game instead.