During the Super Bowl, four cryptocurrency ads aired. courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Super Bowl ads and late-stage capitalism

This year’s Super Bowl leaves me wondering why it feels like companies no longer have to fight for our dollar.

Super Bowl Sunday sits on a throne towering over American consumerism, rivaled only by the excess of Christmas in the states. One can easily spend on hot wings, beer, nachos and the like equal to or more than the cost of a Thanksgiving feast, and all of it surrounds the ritualistic viewing of a single televised event. A single ad space of just thirty seconds costs far more than the average nuclear family will see in their entire combined existence. So why does it feel like they have grown so forgettable?

I watched the Super Bowl in real time, so I will only speak to the ads that I can remember off the top of my head. Why? Because if I cannot remember it then it surely did even worse than the ones I remember. There were a lot of ads to invest in cryptocurrency, including some strange avant-garde bit with a QR code bouncing around the screen and another with Larry David. I will admit, I scanned the code out of interest, only to groan and close the link when I saw what it was for. Larry David’s appearance likewise piqued my interest, only for me to again roll my eyes when I saw that the message was “invest in crypto or forever be remembered as someone unwilling to evolve.” The theme with crypto, which dominated the ad sphere from what I recall, seemed bent on telling America to invest now or regret it forever. It all rings eerily similar to the televangelist pitching tithe like a modern indulgence. If only I had back that money I sent to the TV preacher who was screwing the hockey player. . . (shameless National Lampoon reference).

In other ads, I saw that Will Smith has delivered a new rendition of an old hit with Bel-Air and that yet another Jurassic Park movie hits theaters soon. A slew of streaming services also delivered “you won’t want to miss this” pieces with a laundry list of things I think I can live without. Jim Carrey made a return with his classic comedic style to tell us cable is dead (which every streaming service has marketed for years now?) and Kanye did a McDonald’s ad. That last one probably would have been the best had it not been completely overshadowed by Kanye’s present social media presence and bizarre appearance at the Super Bowl itself.

Maybe I am getting older and starting to see through the used car salesman gimmicks employed in these commercials, but I feel like something should have caught my eye. I mean, I am a man in my early twenties with no children to suck up all my discretionary income. I should be someone’s target audience to say the least. Instead, I saw a bunch of uncreative recycling of the same old techniques. Jim Carrey arrives in a surprise cameo from a man you have not seen much of lately and Kanye makes fast food look cool and hip. Oh, and there are some more cop dramas and girl boss series with dramatic lighting and less than no script amid all the other recycled material available in movies and TV shows right now. These guys avoid original ideas like indoor flies do wide open windows. I am begging for an effort to be made.

The ads were lackluster, but perhaps the products seemed to be too. I do not feel like I found anything fun or memorable or exciting to anticipate this year. There was probably a Taco Bell ad, but I would have gone there anyway. But I remember no puppy monkey baby that made me think of how good a Mountain Dew would taste, or one of those bits where people go crazy for Dorito dust that reminds me how much I really do enjoy those Sweet Chili flavored ones. I cannot even remember a cool car shown that made me want to make enough money to buy a new car. It was all just subscription services, recycled materials and cryptocurrency get-rich-quick schemes that seemed to expect my money more than they fought for it. Has American consumerism gotten so numb that we cannot even demand good material anymore? Sure, junk food is bad for you, but all the modern iterations of Joe Camel at least made it look fun, and it sure as hell is fun to eat. Maybe I am cynical, but if I am going to live in the most excessive, consumer-driven society the world has ever known, I would at least like to feel like my options are exciting.

Post Author: Zach Short