Little shock value in Super Bowl ads

Family friendly messages presented socially conscious statements, patriotic messages, light humor
Associated Press
Feb 3, 2014


What Super Bowl ads will people discuss over the water cooler a day after the big game?

There were no crude jokes. Sexual innuendo was kept to a minimum. And uncomfortable scenes were missing.

In short, there wasn't much shock value.

Sure, RadioShack poked fun at its image by starring 80s icons like Teen Wolf in its ad. And Coca-Cola struck an emotional chord by showcasing people of different diversities in its spot. As did Chrysler, with its "Made in America" message.

But with a 30-second Super Bowl commercial fetching $4 million and more than 108 million viewers expected to tune in to Sunday night's game, advertisers tried to keep it family friendly with socially conscious statements, patriotic messages and light humor. After all, shocking ads in previous years have not always been well received. (Think:'s ad that featured a long, up-close kiss was at the bottom of the most popular ad lists last year.)

"A lot of brands were going with the safety from the start," said David Berkowitz, chief marketing officer for digital ad agency MRY.

Viewers had a mixed reaction to the ads. Keith Harris, who was watching the Super Bowl in Raleigh, N.C., said he appreciated the safer ads. "The ads are less funny, but it's easier to watch the Super Bowl with your family," he said.

Conversely, Paul Capelli, who lives in West Chester, Pa., found most ads dull: "The best spots were like a Payton Manning-to-Wes Welker pass play — they were there, but too few and those that connected left you wanting something a bit more spectacular."


Many advertisers played it safe by promoting a cause or focusing on sentimental issues.

Chevrolet's ad showed a couple driving through the desert in remembrance of World Cancer Day. And Bank of America turned its ad into a virtual video for singing group U2's new single "Invisible" to raise money for an AIDS charity. The song will be a free download on iTunes for 24 hours following the game and Bank of America will donate $1 each time it is downloaded to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.

Meanwhile, a Microsoft ad focused on how its technology helps people in different ways. The ad is narrated by Steve Gleason, a former prof football player who is living with ALS, a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. He uses a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet running eye gazer technology to speak.

And an Anheuser-Busch "Hero's Welcome" ad was an ode to U.S. soldiers. The spot showed how Anheuser-Busch helped prepare big celebration that included a parade with Clydesdales as a surprise for a soldier returning from Afghanistan.


Many advertisers took the safe route by playing up their Americana roots.

Coca-Cola's ad showed scenes of natural beauty and families of different diversities. The tune of "America the Beautiful" could be heard in different languages in the spot.

Chrysler also went with a U.S.A theme. It had a two-minute ad starring music legend Bob Dylan discussing the virtues of having cars built in Detroit, a theme the car maker has stuck with in previous ads with rapper Eminem and actor Clint Eastwood. "Let Germany brew your beer. Let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car," Dylan said in the ad.

Barbara Lippert, ad critic and, said the ads were an attempt to connect with viewers on a more personal level. "We want to be able to feel through all these screens and through all the hype there's a human element and in the end were all human," said Barbara Lippert, ad critic and

Not everyone was a fan. "I didn't like it very much," said Crystal Booker, who lives in Rock Hill, S.C., about the Chrysler ad, in particular. "It was nostalgic but nothing that I hadn't seen before."


Jokes were also tamer. "A few years ago we had a lot of physical slapstick, this year there's a lot less of that," said Berkowitz, with digital ad agency MRY.

Even advertisers that typically go with more crude humor toned it down.'s ad, for instance, showed it helping a small-business owner quit her job. "Women were fed up and parents were fed up and advertisers listened," said's Lippert.

Other advertisers went with light humor as well. There were mini sitcom reunions: in an ad for Dannon Oikos, the "Full House" cast reunited. And "Seinfeld" alums Jerry, George and even Newman came back to Tom's diner in New York City for an ad for Jerry Seinfield's show "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee."

Stephen Colbert appeared in a pair of 15-second ads for Wonderful Pistachios. In one he predicted the nuts would sell themselves because "I'm wonderful, they're wonderful." He was back a few seconds later covered in bright green branded messages because the nuts hadn't sold out in 30 seconds.

Another light-humored ad came from RadioShack, which featured 1980s pop culture figures including Teen Wolf, Chucky, Alf and Hulk Hogan, destroying a store and a voiceover that said: "The 80s called, they want their store back. It's time for a new RadioShack."




I watched the super bowl to see the ads, don't really care who won or lost. The ads sucked this year, if I wanted to buy a car, I didn't need 50 car ads trying to sell me one. The only commercials that I liked were the time machine (doritos),puppy (buttweiser),oikos (dannon) and the Welcome Home one. I didn't think it was right to sing America the Beautiful in different languages, it's America speak English. Oh yeah, and the best joke was the opening overthrow. What????


I noticed that you mentioned you didn't think it was right to have the "America the Beautiful" ad sung in different languages and I read that Twitter had a lot of negative (and nasty) comments about it, but I just don't understand what the hoopla is all about. This is a multi-cultural and multi-lingual country - I think that's what makes us great!

Don't forget the poem The New Colossus is engraved right on the Statue of Liberty commemorating the millions of immigrants in this country. I guess times have changed, or better yet, our tolerance has changed.


This isn't a bi-lingual country. At least it didn't used to be! I'm beginning yo hate this country due to how many foreigners live here now. And don't tell me to leave, there isn't anywhere else to go. EVERYBODY hates Americans.

mimi's word

Unless you are NATIVE AMERICAN aren't you, and everyone else, a foreigner?


Sorry, BabyMomma, but this country has always been bilingual (a better term would be multilingual). It's been that day since day one. Sorry it doesn't fit with the little cocoon that you choose to live in.

Ever stop and think about why everybody hates Americans (as you stated)? Maybe it's because Americans try to shove their way of life down everyone's throats and don't respect the other cultures.


The "Great Melting Pot" of America...yes. Once upon the immigrants that came to this country LEARNED our language. If they wanted a job they learned English. If they wanted help, they learned English. Now everyone needs to hire translator to accommodate the immigrant...or more often the illegal. Noone takes the time or effort to learn the language. And yes if we are so MULTI lingual ...why is it that school and other agencies only require SPANISH ????


I thought they sucked this year too.


Gotta have Clydesdales and dogs - there can be no others.