NEW YORK – Sure, Super Bowl ads (search) have been wacky before. But Gladys Knight scoring in a rugby game? MC Hammer and a '72 Impala getting hurled over a backyard fence — to plug potato chips?
There were plenty of curiosities in this year's crop of ads tailored for the game, the place where the advertising industry goes all out to show off its most daring, creative work and make the most of the biggest television audience of the year.
What we didn't see was a repeat of last year's rampage of off-color humor. And no wardrobe malfunctions — unless you count a cheeky spot from newcomer GoDaddy.com, a vendor of Web site names, that poked fun at the hubbub over the halftime incident from last year with a fake hearing into broadcast decency. An elderly politician clutches for an oxygen mask after a buxom woman's top nearly falls down from a broken shoulder strap.
Some marketing pundits still say that $2.4 million — that's $80,000 a second — is too much to pay for a 30-second advertising spot. But with so few truly mass audiences left, the networks don't seem to have any problem selling out the full inventory of ads and charging ever-higher prices for them.
This year saw a slew of newcomers, including Volvo, with a clever spot featuring Richard Branson going into space in a rocket. A sticker on the side boasts that his other vehicle is a Volvo. This ad even comes with its own promotion, giving viewers a chance to sign up to win a trip into space on commercial space flights Branson is planning.
Lincoln — which hadn't been in the game for a decade — ran a funny ad toward the start of the Super Bowl in which a tough group of bikers is scared away from a roadside diner after seeing a line of Lincoln trucks parked in front. The gang of Hell's Angels lookalikes is spared embarrassment when one of them sheepishly suggests that the salad bar up the road is better anyway.
Several of this year's ads were definitely puzzlers.
Gladys Knight appears as a rugby player in a pitch for the credit card issuer MBNA Corp., and both MC Hammer and a '72 Impala come flying over a backyard fence in a spot for Lay's potato chips.
While some of this year's ads may have been somewhat off, they were a far cry from last year's selection that offered crude jokes, including an accidental bikini wax for Cedric the Entertainer, and a guy who squeals in delight when a blast of cold air blows up his kilt, Marilyn Monroe-style.
Pepsi, a perennial Super Bowl advertiser, referred to one of its own classic ads by showing Cindy Crawford ogling a plain-dressed but hunky guy walking along and sipping on a can of Diet Pepsi as the theme from "Saturday Night Fever" plays in the background.
Crawford herself was the star of a 1992 Pepsi ad where two young boys ogled her as she pulled into a dusty gas station and quaffed a Pepsi in slow motion.
But this being 2005, after Crawford and numerous other women are stopped in their tracks by the hunkalicious Diet Pepsi drinker, there's one more pair of eyes caught by the passing stud: those of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" host Carson Kressley.