The Super Bowl ads: Tech winners and losers (first half)

Which tech company had the best first half ad in the Super Bowl? Here's a detailed analysis, written as it happened.

The Super Bowl is a game in which even the punters get excited.

It's also a game in which America looks at ads that tell it how the corporate world sees, well, America. If the tone of ads is stupid, it means that brands think America is two laces short of a ball. If the tone offers originality, it says the brand looks upon its customers--potential and current--as representing hope.

But with so many companies now dependent on technology either to manufacture their products, to distribute them, or to communicate them, some might wonder just what is a tech company and what isn't.

Car companies certainly count. So, as in every Super Bowl, car commercials dominated. In the early stages, Audi offered a delightful antidote to "Twilight" and every piercing shriek that sails in it. The Audi S7's LED lights happily eliminated those pesky vampires. But what happened to the two that ran up a tree?

Chevy offered a Mayan 2012 apocalypse ad in which the joke was, essentially, that if you drive a Ford truck you might die when everything comes crumbling down. Stunningly, Ford tried to get this ad removed from the game.

But the winner of the first half--for your Incorrect correspondent, at least--was Best Buy.

The thing about most Super Bowl ads--especially car ads--is that they're performing maintenance. "Hey, we're still here. We're trying to make you laugh."

Best Buy came out and attempted to get you to reassess everything you might think of it.

Instead of last year's Justin Bieber and Ozzie Osbourne, here we had stellar individuals such as artificial intelligence and speech recognition guru Ray Kurzweil; Philippe Kahn, the creator of the first cell phone camera; and the people who invented Instagram, Words With Friends, text messages, and other technological marvels that have made our lives more enjoyable, if not always more meaningful.

The conceit is that Best Buy claims it created a better way to buy a cell phone. Many watching it will have lifted their eyebrows in amused disbelief. But if Best Buy could deliver on that promise--and no ad can make them deliver on it--then it might hope for a better future.

What the company was trying to tell America was this: "You want us to be serious, don't you? So we're going to try."

In the midst of all the huge budgets and vast dollops of trying-too-hard, this, at least, might make someone stop and take Best Buy more seriously.

Naturally, GoDaddy offered a traditionally amusing attempt to sell .co domain names. Yes, with Danica Patrick and plenty of female skin--not hers, oddly enough.

Chevy presented a crowd-sourced ad that has proved quite popular among critics--one in which a recent graduate believes that his parents have bought him a Camaro convertible. A fine ad for contemporary American education.

An ad for GE sold the idea that the company makes the power that makes Budweiser. Which might make some wish that they injected a little more powerful taste to go with the turbines.

And then there was TaxAct.com, a site that makes you feel as free as a little boy who is desperate to urinate and finally manages it in his own backyard pool. Some will have found this charming. I tended to find it just the dark side of cheesy.

Of course, we had the VW Beetle spot, an attempt to revive the joy of last year's Darth Vader. It's nice. But mind-altering? Not quite.

We then were offered the Chevy Sonic with a very frightened test driver and the trailer for the Marvel "Avengers" movie. The movie seemed like fun, but not as fun as Sasha Baron Cohen's "The Dictator," which was previewed earlier.

Cars.com reminded me terribly of "Withnail and I" and not in an entirely negative way. While E*Trade wandered along just to say hello and remind you that its ads are very well scripted.

Adriana Lima appeared for Teleflora with some simple advice: Give flowers and you will have a chance at deflowering. She's also appearing for Kia , though. So would you buy flowers for an unfaithful woman?

Suddenly, I looked up and the Giants, totally dominant in the half, were losing. How could this have happened? How could some of these spots have happened? They just did.

FIRST HALF WINNER: BEST BUY.

FIRST HALF NOT SO MUCH A WINNER: TAXACT.COM.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET
 

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