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Superbowl XLIII: We’ve Been Too Long American Dreaming


When we’re really lost in America—when we’re completely baffled and no one has any answers—we revert to cars and rock n’ roll.   That’s the read one might get from this year’s superfluous battle between the Steelers and the Cardinals.  But what started as an escapist yearning for the Fast and the Furious, Mr. Potato Head hugging mountain curves on Bridgestone tires, and Bruce Springsteen rehashing “Born to Run” and “Glory Days” gave way to what might be interpreted as a subconscious unrest over America’s second Great Depression.

The safe play in the first half was evident.  Budweiser, Sobe, GoDaddy, (and even E-Trade, who wins the spineless award of the night with a glancing reference to the “tough economy”) all turned to the tried and true spots of 2008.   Clydesdales and Dalmatians, lizards-meet-techno choreography, peep show “go online” soft porn fantasies, and precocious babies were all simple reruns of last year’s well-reviewed spots.  It all lead up to the halftime show, in which Bruce Springsteen worked tirelessly to animate the E-Street hits of yesteryear.  Everything’s OK, right?

But after the half, the cracks began to show.

In a raucous moon-racing spot, two astronaut Baja racers return to find their priceless Bridgestone tires jacked from their moon buggy.  Hot on the heels of that pawn shop job came Denny’s Mafioso offer for a free breakfast. Budweiser cast its iconic Clydesdale in the American bootstrap story, reminding us “it wasn’t always easy.”

Finally, in what may be the best (and most honest spot of 2009), Monster.com reveals the cubicle where the south end of a north-bound moose ends up… from the executive’s lavish office to the corporate grunt’s stall.  Quite a compelling image to cap a year in which financial sector CEOs were generously bonused while simultaneously crying like bewildered street urchins for a handout. CareerBuilder ’s follow-up also focused on “current job loathing” with a witty and repetitive spot that encouraged people to recognize the signs that it’s time to find a new job. While a fair number of companies have undoubtedly relaxed into the cover of the economy to obscure their own financial malfeasance, both Monster and CareerBuilder avoided the question of whether or not those new jobs were actually out there.

By deep in the fourth quarter, the auto industry bailout fantasy commercials were long gone. Hyundai offered up its “lose your job, return your car” message, while Ed McMahon encouraged you to hock your golden toilets via Cash4Gold.com.  (And by the way, while you’re waiting for your pink slip, Alec Baldwin recommends you spend your last hours on company bandwidth watching Hulu.com.) Fretting foreign wars appears to be so 2008.  Not even America’s sports media orgy can keep the economy at bay.


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