I was gonna post this as “pointless controversy!”, but upon reflection, this isn’t anything that people can actually disagree on.
Superbowl commercials were much, much better in the ’90s.
There’s no wiggle room there; if you disagree with that statement, you are utterly, provably wrong. That’s not to say there haven’t been good commercials since then, but the overall gestalt has taken a nosedive.
First, let’s consider Budweiser. They always, always had funny Bud Light commercials, and of course the Bud Bowl. And their ads weren’t just funny, but very funny. For the last few years, they’ve only had the obligatory sappy Clydesdale ads, but no funny ones. This year they didn’t even do the Clydesdale ad: just a pretentious one about their history, one with Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen that wanted to be funny but wasn’t (PS: Amy Schumer’s 15 minutes are up), one with Helen Mirren telling people not to drive drunk (a worthy message, but the intended humorous delivery was chuckle-worthy at best), and Peyton Manning saying their name repeatedly after the game.
Mountain Dew: Good gads their ads used to be so much better. This year they weren’t advertising straight Dew, but some new drink under their label. The ad was sort of amusing, but super weird.
Pepsi: They also used to be the highlight of the Superbowl. This year I don’t recall seeing any ads from them, but that may be because we switched away at halftime after the ads went to local commercials. (Coldplay? Really? With reprise performances from Beyonce and Bruno Mars, who did their own halftime shows not that long ago? Was the theme “We ran out of ideas”?) Anyway it used to be that they had ads throughout the game, but now they put all their money into the halftime show. Screw that.
Nike: Do they bother anymore? They used to be trendsetters.
Car commercials have always been terrible. They didn’t really get worse, but only because getting worse would have taken considerable effort. Specifically, the effort to remove their own heads from their colons.
A few exceptions: Doritos is one of the few players that has held a high standard, by encouraging fan submissions. So well done to them. Taco Bell has also tried to keep up a good standard most years; I think they got a little iffy in the last decade, but today’s ad was brilliant.
Across the board, the ads have simply been terrible as a rule. The funny ones mostly got less funny, or unfunny. New ones appeared that were just plain boring, or stupid, or traumatizing (nope, Nationwide, I will never forgive that). The companies that used to reliably produce great ads stopped doing so, with precious few exceptions.
Now credit where it’s due: this year was better than last year. Considering the train wreck that last year was, they almost had nowhere to go but up. Good gads, Superbowl IL was a disaster, all those depressing “message” ads about social responsibility. I swear after that game I wanted to dump radioactive waste in a wildlife refuge just to feel better about the human race. I still want to chase after wild packs of SJWs with a whip, but really everybody ought to feel that way.
Why are so many of our Superbowl commercials so dour now? Or at best, many of them are simply no better than regular commercials. It’s not as if our sense of humor has disappeared. The rise of memes has clearly shown that by jumping onto the right bandwagon can make an ad funny and memorable. And they’re not pumping any less money into them. Entertaining us is expected of the advertisers, and those who fail to do so have failed in their only responsibility.
Do better, ad monkeys. Get over yourselves, purge your preachy jerks (by defenestration where possible), and hire some people who know how to make us belly laugh. This goes a hundred times over for the breweries, who used to know better.