In Super Bowl ads, humor comes back

Associated Press / February 8, 2010

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NEW YORK - Betty White plays football, babies talk about “milkaholics,’’ and a house made of Bud Light cans slowly falls apart. It must be the Super Bowl - or at least the advertising showcase that entertains amid the gridiron action.

The commercials, from such advertisers as Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola, got off to a funny start last night on CBS.

A Villanova marketing professor, Charles R. Taylor, said the lighthearted tone works this year. Last year, some ads took a more somber tone amid the still-deepening recession.

Not every commercial was humorous. Automaker Toyota aired several pregame ads to reassure worried owners after its recalls connected with accelerator problems.

And a commercial by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, perhaps the most-discussed ad leading up to the game, hinted at a serious subject though it, too, had a punch line. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother talk about her difficult pregnancy with him - implying an antiabortion message, since she had been advised to have an abortion for medical reasons - but ended with Tebow tackling his mom and saying the family must be “tough.’’

Taylor said he had been disappointed in the ads in at least the past five Super Bowls, but this year he’s pleased.

He cited a commercial by tire maker Bridgestone featuring men carrying a whale in a truck, and another by Dove launching its men’s skin-care line. They were winners, he said, because they manage to entertain while telling people about the brands.

A first Super Bowl by ad Google told the story of a relationship through a series of Google searches, beginning with “study abroad’’ and “how to impress a French woman’’ and ending with “how to assemble a crib.’’