by David Sisler

John Carman, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, said, "I'm not sure what Electronic Data Systems Corp. does, except make funny commercials." Last year EDS won the top spot in the Super Bowl ad competition with "Cat Herders" -- cowboys trying to drive unruly cats along the trail. This year's entry was "Running with the Squirrels," a spoof of bull running in Pamplona, Spain. The cats were funnier.

Since the team from Pittsburgh was not playing for a ring for the thumb again this year, and faced with the choice of a Steeler-less football game or the torture of Murder, She Wrote reruns, I watched the competition between the Giants from New Jersey and the Ravens from Cleveland. Once again the commercials were the best part of the telecast.

"Whassuup?" was back, of course, including a parody, "What are you doing?" Can you imagine historians a thousands of years from now, looking through the records, and for the year 2001, all they dig up is that Budweiser series? What picture of us will that give?

Later, in a self-serving, hypocritical, public service announcement the beer meisters featured N Sync telling a father he had more influence over his daughter than they did. Listen, brewery people, you can't have it both ways. If you are going to promote your brand, people are going to buy it and drink it. Including kids. Those ads are merely corporate CYA -- as in, "If we tell kids not to drink and tell adults to drink responsibly and talk to their offspring, then we are not responsible for the death and destruction caused by our product and you cannot sue us."

Subway (and a few other advertisers) ran commercials we have already been watching -- I guess Jared losing 200-plus pounds is worth a couple of million dollars if it sells sandwiches. After all, 130 million people were watching.

Volkswagen ran its "up a tree" spot twice for their new high performance GTI. A high performance car knocked out of a tree by a flying shoe is stupid. Diet Dr Pepper tried too hard to be funny with its "Hudson River Dance." It wasn't.

Offerings from the online employment agencies and were unimpressive. Hallie Kate Eisenberg was dropped by Pepsico for the Super Bowl and without their little charmer, the Pepsi commercials were uncharacteristically weak.

At $2.3 million for 30 seconds (which breaks down to $76,667 per second) these guys should have had better spots.

CBS at least had the decency to make fun of the hype over the ads with its Becker spot in which star Ted Danson calls the advertising campaigns for the network shows "shameless."

The Mummy's Return and the movie version of the video game Tomb Raiders look good. The other movie offerings (including Hannibal, Exit Wounds, and A Knight's Tale) fall under the category of "I'll save my money for their debut on network TV" -- I won't even waste money renting them when they are released on video and DVD.

Super Bowl commentator Phil Simms suggested that the Baltimore Ravens defense be voted the game's Most Valuable Players. He has a case. In the advertising awards, I award the first of three first place finishes to Cingular Wireless for its moving portrait of an artist who paints with his brush strapped to his head. His body jerks uncontrollably, yet overcoming obstacles that would defeat almost all of us, he paints incredibly beautiful pictures. The artist is "Unbelievably Lucky."

The other two top spots in the Sisler Super Bowl Commercial Awards go to American Legacy Foundation for its two powerful anti-smoking announcements (which, by the way, you will not see if you go to -- even though all the other Super Bowl commercials are there -- editorial dishonesty, if you ask me).

"Electrolarynx" had me believing that the voice I heard was computer generated. Instead, it was a former smoker who speaks with the aid of an electronic device, underscoring smoking's consequences.

"46 Years Old" features Ray Stoddard, a widower who tells us that his wife, Marie, died because of smoking when she was 46. Photographs of a happy family play across the screen as he repeats, "She was only 46." Then he drives all of the air from our lungs when he says, "I never thought of middle age as 23." As they used to say in another commercial, "Are there any other reasons to quit smoking cigarettes?"

For Steeler fans everywhere, it is, once again, wait until next year. For smokers, if you don't quit, there may not be a next year.


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