Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: Speaking of scary... .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Friday, February 10, 2006

Speaking of scary...

As usual, most of the excitement at the Super Bowl this year didn't take place on the field. And although we didn't have any "wardrobe malfunctions", it was still an interesting day.

Also as usual, we overdid it on the snackage. This is the time of year when we tend to overindulge culinarily without actually eating anything substantial. Chips, wings, shrimp, nuggets - basically anything that can be dunked into a sauce or dip.

This is also the one time of year we actually watch commercials. Not that the game wasn't almost exciting. Sure, Seattle was in it for the first time ever. And Pittsburgh, well they were good in the 70s. But it was really about the halftime show and the commercials.

Speaking of the halftime show, it's a good thing they got away from the sexual content of previous years, eh? Yeah, Mick kinda mumbled through the racier lyrics of Rough Justice. And unless you had any imagination at all, you wouldn't see the symbolism of the giant tongue-shaped stage, or understand what the Rolling Stones were singing about in Start Me Up and (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. Subtlety aside, it was just good, clean family entertainment. And Mick didn't show any nipple.

There was a "wardrobe malfunction" reference in one of the commercials, though. Apparently, a sale was going to fail, so it was decided to send in the Go-Daddy girl. Her halter strap breaks, and an old guy (the buyer, we presume) reaches for his athsma inhaler. Clever, but was it effective? First, we didn't get to see what he saw, and second, what does Go-Daddy sell, anyway?

Among the other ads were big production numbers, such as a Full Throttle tanker truck being followed by a testosterone parade, Burger King burger diving - a Busby-Berkely number featuring trapeze veggies and a bun babe, and Budweiser football on the Range featuring all manner of barnyard animals and a streaking shaved lamb.

There were cute ads, such as Hummer3 being the love child of a Godzilla knock-off and Robotman, and a hamster mascot hanging with Ronald McDonald (was that Michael J. Fox in the hamster suit?).

There were almost-funny ads, including two from Ameriquest, whose theme was "don't judge too quickly". In one, an intern zaps an insect with defibrilator paddles, then says "that killed him" just as the patient's family walks into the hospital room. In another, a woman tries to get past the sleeping passenger next to her on a plane. The lights come on while she's straddling him with her skirt hiked up.

Also almost funny was HEBs ad featuring David Carr carrying in groceries by the armload. According to his wife, he doesn't like sacks.

There were some decidedly un-funny ads, which I won't even acknowledge by mentioning them here. And I'm a little disappointed by Overstock.com, whose icon - the Big O - wasn't used as a double entendre even once that I could tell. They should take barely-subtle lessons from the Stones if they want to get my attention.

Oddly enough, the only actually funny commercials were both done by Pepsi. Diet Pepsi came in second with a series of commercials where it gets an agent. In the first, it stars in a music video (kinda lame), but then it co-stars with Jackie Chan in an action flick. The agent insists it doesn't do stunts, so Diet Coke stands in and gets crushed. It would almost make we want to drink Diet Pepsi if it tasted any good.

The funniest commercial was for Sierra Mist, where a guy gets stopped at airport security. The agent (Kathy Griffin?) passes the metal detector over the soda bottle, making noises. The guy calls her on this, she tells her partner they have a troublemaker, and her partner snaps on his latex glove. The guy says "I'm good" and moves on.

And now, it seems, scientists are using brainscan images recorded while people watched these ads to see which ones produced favorable responses. Not surprisingly, the Sierra Mist ad topped the list, along with one from Disney, which I must have missed.

Every year at Super Bowl time, an unofficial, often more engaging, contest takes place between the 30-second commercials that air before, during and after the game.

Companies like Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, Disney and Careerbuilder.com pay megabucks for the chance to go down in the history of public opinion as the funniest, most dramatic or most shocking advertiser during the country's most-watched program. Eliciting emotion in a commercial can be considered a factor for positive remembrance--and with data on brain response, the competition could reach new heights.

The researchers at UCLA and FKF Applied Research used fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, to measure the activity of brain regions associated with key emotions in viewers. "NFL Dreamers" elicited strong responses in the orbito-frontal cortex and the ventral striatum, two brain regions associated with the processing of rewards, they said. Bud Light's "Employee Incentive Plan," in contrast, induced anxiety. FedEx's "Caveman" failed to trigger much activity at all.
However, most of the ads--including FedEx's--had one response in common: repelling viewers.

"Almost all the ads induced their greatest activity in the amygdala, a center of the brain most associated with detecting threats or danger," Joshua Freedman, a UCLA clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and co-founder of FKF Applied Research, said in a statement.

And The Agonist brings up a very good point:

That's scary that technology can measure the effectiveness of advertisements! Means governments will use it next for the best propaganda money can buy. Perhaps they already are?

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