Puppies (and Muppets) win the Super Bowl

ASSOCIATED PRESS NASCAR driver Danica Patrick stars in a GoDaddy commercial wearing a muscle suit.
ASSOCIATED PRESS NASCAR driver Danica Patrick stars in a GoDaddy commercial wearing a muscle suit.
Posted: February 04, 2014

IT'S PROBABLY just as well most people's yards aren't zoned for Clydesdales.

Because golden retriever puppies - already too popular for their own good - are likely to be in even more demand after Budweiser unveiled its latest cross-species love story before millions at last night's Super Bowl.

Let's pause while everyone goes, "Awwwww."; And to remember that the ad, "Best Buds," was posted to YouTube by Budweiser last Wednesday and had already had more than 33 million views a few hours before kickoff.

But then maybe you didn't see it. Because by the time that feel-good puppy aired, it was 9:50 - time for the 2-minute warning - and the score was a lopsided 43-8.

Like the GoDaddy ad with Danica Patrick in a muscle suit and one of the two fan-made Doritos ads chosen in a contest, the puppy-loves-Clydesdale commercial may have come long after millions had turned their full attention to the remains of the dip. Or to "Downton Abbey" on PBS.

Rumor has it a football was tossed around North Jersey's MetLife stadium (maybe a little more at one end?) in the short breaks between commercials. But after paying a reported $4 million per 30-second spot, advertisers had to have been hoping viewers would time their bathroom and beer breaks to skip the slower parts of a not-close game and avoid missing one $133,333 second of the kind of ads that many of us cheerfully fast-forward through the rest of the year.

Philadelphians certainly couldn't have missed the one with the Geico gecko dancing in front of Geno's. The commercial set off a predictable chorus of Twitter cheers (and complaints), with some viewers noting the dance floor seemed to be located at Pat's. No one explained what cheesesteaks have to do with the price of car insurance.

That's the thing with Super Bowl ads, though. They're often more about grabbing (your heart or other body parts) than actual selling:

Reminding us that knowing a second (or third) language wouldn't hurt: The ad for M&Ms in which the yellow one's menaced by someone he doesn't understand, and, of course, the gorgeously executed Coca-Cola commercial with "America the Beautiful" in different tongues.

Who's sadder today? Fans of the Broncos or of Bob Dylan? Dylan's now a car salesman for Chrysler with a buy-America message that could easily have been drowned out on a night when the nation's most-watched telecast was brought to us by one foreign-car company after another (and, OK, a lot of beer). But Dylan got our attention. Just not in a good way.

Some celebrity spots that worked: Tim Tebow's hilarious T-Mobile adventures showing amazing things that could be done without a contract (he found Bigfoot!); Terry Crews and the Muppets for Toyota; Stephen Colbert's pistachios commercial; the British villains ad for Jaguar with Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong; and, of course, the "Matrix"-themed Kia spot with Laurence Fishburne singing "Nessun Dorma."

Some that didn't: Not-so-"Full House" reunion of John Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier for Dannon and James Franco with the tiger for Ford.

This is what an Oscar nomination gets you: Quvenzhané Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild," "12 Years a Slave") is only 10, but that didn't stop Maserati from casting her in its stylish, slightly unsettling ad for the new Ghibli, with the tagline, "We have prepared. Now we strike." Just wait till she's 16.

I call bull semen: On that Chevy Silverado ad with the bull that went a courtin'. "A man and his truck and a very eligible bachelor," my foot. Let me know when the bull starts giving out roses and cows go home crying in the back of a limo.

When in doubt, add puppies: Cheerios made its Super Bowl debut with the return of the interracial family it first introduced last year. This year, the father's explaining to his daughter that "pretty soon, you're going to have a baby brother." After considering her position for an expensive beat, she replies, firmly, "and a puppy." According to the New York Times, some responses to that first Cheerios commercial last May were so "overtly racist" when it was posted online that General Mills disabled comments.

Not even puppies can prevent controversy: An MSNBC employee was reportedly fired last week after sending a tweet from the network's Twitter account that read, "Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/biracial family." Among the particularly unamused: conservatives with biracial children.

Not all puppies are pretty: But the CGI canine for Audi's "Doberhuahua spot should be signed, pronto, for the sequel to "Sharknado."

One step forward, one step back: Once-racy GoDaddy went in a different direction this year, with Patrick and with another spot that had a female entrepreneur quitting her job on television. But Volkswagen's otherwise clever commercial in which German engineers sprouted wings every time a VW odometer hit 100,000 miles was about as female-friendly as Wing Bowl. It appeared to include only one female engineer - and rather than getting wings of her own, she was shown taking offense at being inadvertently bumped by someone else's.

Off-field controversy: Scarlett Johansson's SodaStream commercial aired, as expected, without the "Sorry, Coke and Pepsi" line, but the actress still ended up resigning her global ambassador post with Oxfam. The charity opposes Israeli-owned SodaStream for having a factory in a West Bank settlement.

You wanted a "Seinfeld" reunion, you got one: Sort of. Biggest audience ever for a promo for Jerry Seinfeld's Crackle.com show, "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." If that's what it was. Honestly, I'm still not sure. But Seinfeld was there in Tom's Restaurant, with Jason Alexander and Wayne Knight.


Email: graye@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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