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February 3, 2014

2014 Super Bowl Ads: Wisdom of the Puppies?

Bud Puppy Horse

Budweiser Puppy Love

From Space Babies
Kia Space Babies

Cowboy Kid
Doritos Cowboy Kid

Dog House SubaruDog House – Subaru

Slow Bark Car Max

Slow Bark – Car Max

Tebow SB ad puppies
T-Mobile Illegal Formation

How did the NYT explain the warmer and fuzzier Super Bowl ads this year? (It’s not that dogs and babies aren’t regular fodder every year, but dogs and puppies did seem even more prominent — with the Budweiser “Puppy Love” ad stealing the most hearts.) They attributed it to the power of social media and viewer backlash to all the crassness last year.

Playing amateur sociologist, could it be a reaction in the culture the inundation of terror, gun violence and school shootings, wars and, particularly, extreme political polarization. If that is the case though, is Madison Avenue bathing us in denial, or are do all the puppy ads speak to a desire in the culture for a kinder and and more genial atmosphere?

With that in mind, what’s particularly interesting are those ads where the puppy actual serves as the vehicle to transcend cultural tension.

Cheerios Interracial SB

Cheerios interracial marriage ad

In the Cheerios interracial marriage ad, for example, as the father and daughter discuss what makes a family (there is a new baby on the way), what helps establish and cement the normalcy of this family unit is the daughter negotiating for, then closing the deal for a puppy.

Doberhuahua 1

Audi Doberhuahua

Even more interesting is the arc of the Audi Doberhuahua ad. This hybrid of mad dog and tame dog reflects — through the various mayhem — terrorism, mad science and, representing alter-egos of the man and the woman, the gender war. What’s powerful, though, is how the beast is revealed to be a fantasy.

Doberhuahua 2

The outcome, as in the Cheerios ad, involves a resolution. If we have these instincts in us, and they’ve been running amok in different ways (like they have been, within the culture, over the past decade), the vision and message here is that they can not only be contained, but resolved.

If that’s what was being sold this year, I’m happy to buy it.

  • bystander

    There is a tension that needs resolution. And, if this array is indicative, I suspect Madison Avenue has done a better job of capturing people’s desires than Washington, DC or Hollywood. I charge the latter with trying to steer people in a direction they are disinclined to go, the former of figuring out where most people are. I might even toss the Radio shack commercial in here – though it’s more complicated. A past that wants to fast-forward over the present into some better future where people might just have the discretionary income they enjoyed in the past, once again.

  • black_dog_barking

    Puppies are very cute, and dogs give so much and try so hard but damn, they’re a pain in the ass too, They must be leashed and fenced and walked and their waste disposal is problematic and they’ll try eat almost anything. Cats on the other hand are much lower maintenance if you can live without the shower of adoration pouring off your canine companion — cuz you might get some adoration from a cat if you’re lucky.

  • bks3bks

    In my circle the story was Dylan doing an ad about America for Chrysler a company owned by Fiat in Italy. Ultra-Creepy. Game was pathetic, ads were insipid. Half-time show and national anthem seemed like self-parody.


  • lucaites

    There is the cute factor, of course, and that is hard to resist. But one should note too the proliferation of post-war memoirs–journalistic and otherwise–that feature the relationship between soldiers and their dogs. There is a sense in which the “dog” is the only “social” being that those traumatized by war are able to engage. The point is made with some poignance in the prize winning Denver Post Slide Show concerning the traumatized and returning Scott Ostrom. He is incapable of making any kind of “normal” contact with anyone “back in the world,” but the photograph of him “spooning” with his dog puts it all in powerful (and disturbing) context:

  • LanceThruster

    It seemed like the interspecies couplings Rick Santorum warned us about.

  • Michael Shaw

    Lucaites asked us to post this with his comment.

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