Super Bowl XLVIII Round-up

It’s possible that the tears welling up in my eyes during Super Bowl XLVIII’s commercial breaks were from someone cutting onions for game day guacamole. But I think – just maybe – a couple of tear-jerking moments came from dads in commercials.

At a rate of $4.5 million for a 30-second spot, brands had the blink of an eye to impact their captive audience. How’d they fare?

By my watch, the good outweighed the bad.

We came off of a really good 2013 in terms of fatherhood in commercials. And because of what I can only imagine is a myriad of reasons including Pew research, societal and brand trends, and even dad blogger uproar, 2014 is poised to be another crowd-pleaser.

As the first event in 2014 where brands paid top dollar for their commercials, here are the ones that featured fathers:

Hyundai: “Dad’s Sixth Sense”

Dad doesn’t always need to be Superman in a commercial for it to be great. In Hyundai’s spot for their Genesis, they show a montage of dads saving their kids from certain disaster, whether it be hitting their heads, flinging headlong into a fire or off a cliff – until the final scene:

What I like most about the commercial is that usually, dad is portrayed as an animal that puts food, sports and even sex above their children. But Hyundai breaks the mold here by showing dads that don’t think twice about tossing whatever they’re doing aside to catch their kids – even food! This is the reality of most fathers – that we’ll drop anything to save our kids. I don’t care if I lose a plate of hamburgers or a fishing rod. My son’s safety is my top priority.

A father’s “sixth sense” isn’t really as supernatural as it’s been billed; both mothers and fathers simply use their existing senses to keep one step ahead of their kids. In any event, bravo to Hyundai. A wonderful change from the commercial I’d previously blasted.

Volkswagen: “Wings”

Humorous commercials are always harder to talk about when there’s nothing really “wrong”:

And that’s that. It’s nice to see a father and daughter talking. And I can’t count the daughter’s snark as belittling the dad, because my god, have you heard teenagers?

I’ve got to say this, and I’m going to, and then I’m walking away from it, but I don’t like two things here: the suggestion of sexual harassment toward women, and physical violence toward men in commercials. Too often in commercials, women are touched and/or men are slapped as a punch line. In this case, a male engineer gets his wings and the wing taps his elevator-mate on the back. She pops forward as if it was on her behind (but I’ve got to say, I watched the scene over and over and though I think it’s insinuating her bottom, the touch lands on her back). And her response? To hit him. I don’t like that. Two wrongs don’t make a punch line. There, I’ve said my piece.

All things considered, Volkswagen’s had better dadvertising in the past in the form of “Playing Catch” and “Is It Fast“, and a previous Super Bowl commercial, “The Force“.

Cheerios (General Mills): “Gracie”

Last year, Cheerios introduced us to – gasp – an interracial family. Most people loved the cute simplicity of the spot, and Cheerios went for a repeat with their Super Bowl spot:

Verdict? A nice little heart-warmer. What stands out to me is that it breaks gender-lines; usually mom is seen breaking the news of a sibling, or both parents together. In the Cheerios spot, dad gets to be the speaker and bargainer. And though dad makes a panicked decision and gets a look from mom for it, the commercial doesn’t leave you with the feeling that mom and dad aren’t equal in this relationship. I’m sure some will find room for argument, but I simply don’t see anything more than a cute family scene.

Microsoft: “Empowering”

Not specifically a commercial about dads, this Microsoft spot is actually about technology, but features a couple of dads in it:

Dad runs alongside his son with prosthetic legs, soldier dad gets to watch his child’s birth, Skype dad gets to video chat with his daughter, and former New Orleans Saints safety, Steve Gleason, who is living with ALS, gets a voice with which he can communicate with his son. Microsoft was trying to connect with fathers – made obvious by identifying Gleason specifically as “dad.” In the last year, among tech companies, Google’s featured commercials with fathers, along with Samsung and Hewlett Packard. So this space is busy with dadvertising.

During the 2013 holiday season, Microsoft released a fairly typical spot for Nokia Lumia tablets. The “Empowering” spot, however, is a great step toward simplicity; there’s no hard sell here. We just see products operating in real life.

Priceline: “Negotiator Rises”

So, I’m obligated to mention the Priceline commercial:

There, I mentioned it.

Also, “LOL, a father is protective of his daughter and throws her boyfriend out of a window!” This, I’m sure, appeals to someone.

And finally, the specifically non-dad commercial…

Monsanto: “America’s Farmer”

Monsanto’s commercial doesn’t really feature a dad. And that’s the problem…

I mean, look. I don’t know much about Monsanto other than people hate them and people really hate them. And people have hated them for awhile now. But for my purposes here, their sin is of omission. They’ve prescribed to Procter & Gamble’s methodology, which is to call out for mom – and only mom. I’ve got no problems with companies identifying with mothers, but what Monsanto has done (and what P&G before) is create a story that simply ignores dads. Dave Taylor actually does a good job of explaining the gripes here. I wouldn’t necessarily call Monsanto’s sin “dad bashing” as Taylor did; I won’t speculate on where dad is or what he’s most likely doing. All I know is that Monsanto needlessly left dad out.

Note: I relied on Hulu for a list of the Super Bowl commercials. If they missed it, I missed it.

So, how did you think dads did at the Super Bowl? Did I miss any? Did I get anything wrong? Let me know in the comments.