Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Biggest Super Bowl flops... ever

No, not the 49ers vs. Broncos (1990, 55-10 San Fran), these are the worst ads in championship history

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Sometimes casting celebrities in your ads will lead to big sales and positive increases in brand awareness. But it's not a foolproof plan, as the Super Bowl commercials you're about to see taught us. Everyone from LeBron James to Britney Spears appeared in these 17 ads, but none of them got the buzz they were looking for.

We chose the following ads because each stars at least one celebrity and placed 35th or worse in that year's Ad Meter rankings. Where did they go so wrong? See for yourself:


Jay Leno for Doritos (1989)

Before becoming a villain among comedy junkies and the poster child for overstaying one's welcome, Leno was a hip standup comedian who often hung around with David Letterman on Late Night. What changed? Well, arguably the beginning of Leno's heel turn was when he hawked Doritos in the late '80s and early '90s. This was part of a two-parter in 1989 that scored a 5.97, good only for 37th place in that year's Ad Meter. Of course, no score was as bad as Bill Hicks' (very, very NSFW) routine about Leno's participation in the spots.

Boomer Esiason and Dominique Wilkins on "The Pump" (1990)

Here's an interesting spot, if only because it directly addresses another commercial series, 'Bo Knows' for Nike. This was paired with a similar spot starring Dominique Wilkins during the '90 game. It's the cheesy athlete commercial personified, and Esiason would go on to make a much better television analyst than pitchman. It scored just a 5.40 from the panel and landed in 36th place.

Dirt Devil brings Fred Astaire back from the dead (1997)

One of the more misguided ads in history. Years before people thought going to a festival to see a Tupac hologram was a good idea, Dirt Devil digitized the late Fred Astaire to hawk their newest vacuum. Imagine the uproar if this had debuted today. A score of 5.51 (good for 45th place) was better than this deserved.

Jon Lovitz meets James Coburn for the Yellow Pages (1999)

Jon Lovitz's spot with Dana Carvey was the champion of the first-ever Ad Meter in 1989. However, this confusing, pointless Yellow Pages ad didn't fare anywhere near as well. It scored a mere 5.67 and ended in 47th place in 1999. James Coburn deserves better.

Bill Walsh for Invesco (2001)

I feel bad about this one, because there's really nothing all that wrong with it. Just a coach talking about his life in football and suggesting that what Invesco brought to the world of finance could match that level of success. A 5.03 rating and 46th-place finish (next to last in 2001) suggests people weren't buying it.

Britney Spears goes to the '50s for Pepsi (2002)

Pop stars tend to have trouble in Ad Meter because the Super Bowl is mainly targeted to older men, and men tend to not be interested in what's soaring up the Hot 100. A pair of retro ads starring the then insanely popular Spears could do no better than 5.95 and 5.20 ratings, placing just 43rd and 54th on the night, respectively.

Celine Dion drives the Chrysler Crossfire (2003)

Again, pop stars don't do great in Ad Meter, and by 2003 Celine Dion was already headed toward semi-retirement. A humdrum Chrysler commercial drew a 5.35 rating, in just 49th place.

Mike Ditka throws the challenge flag for Levitra (2004)

Where to start with this. Mike Ditka suggesting that baseball needs...enhancement? I don't even want to think about anything in that sentence. America didn't either, as this finished last, out of 60, in 2004's Ad Meter with just a 4.08 rating, one of the lowest scores of all time.

LeBron James blows for Bubblicious (2005)

LeBron has never been a huge Ad Meter favorite due to... well, you know, all the narratives and Jordan comparisons and The Decision and whatever. Anyway, this might be the case of an ad that just didn't have enough time to register for what was probably a misguided product in the first place: LeBron's gum flavour. A very small 4.92 rating and 51st place finish for this one.

Eve and Gwen Stefani for Pepsi (2005)

Pepsi continued to lose their way in the 2000s with this spot, featuring the once popular tag team of Eve and Gwen Stefani. This was also a part of a big Pepsi music download program, so maybe the idea of downloading music semi-legally didn't sit well with older voters? Either way, a 5.31 put Eve and Gwen in 44th place. Still beat LeBron!

Diddy, Eva Longoria, XZibit, Carson Daly, and Wilmer Valderrama for Diet Pepsi (2006)

I actually disagree with the voters here, who gave this a 5.22 rating and landed it in 48th place. I think the ad is cute and inoffensive. Diddy's always a pretty game actor and plays well off of the weirdness that's going on around him.

Sheryl Crow debuts a song for Revlon (2007)

People were in no way buying the idea that Sheryl Crow both used Revlon for six weeks and wrote a song about it. One of our lowest scorers ever, with just a 4.09. That only got 56th place in 2007

The original trailer for Iron Man (2008)

This shows just how far Robert Downey, Jr.'s comeback has taken him: the very idea of him playing a popular superhero in a film bombed at the time it was first advertised. The debut trailer for the Marvel franchise drew just a 4.97 rating from the panel, good for just 52nd place overall. Six years later, Iron Man has spawned two sequels, has been spun off into an Avengers movie franchise, and RDJ is easily one of America's most beloved celebrities.

Tiger Woods and co. pump Gatorade (2009)

This was seven months before Tiger Woods' downfall, but people still weren't interested in this kooky, space-themed commercial. Only a 5.51 rating from the panel, good for just 44th place.

Tim Tebow and his mom plug Focus on the Family (2010)

Now, this is all said with the obvious caveat that we are not getting political here at Ad Meter. But the fact is, this ad had perhaps as much hype as any in the history of the Super Bowl, and it didn't do very well. It drew a 5.31 with a 54th-place finish in 2010.

Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne buy back for Best Buy (2011)

Pop stars remain Ad Meter poison, even if they're assisted by a legendary metalhead. People likely found this commercial as incomprehensible as an Ozzy monologue, giving it a 5.48 rating, placing it 53rd on the evening.

David Beckham in his underwear, quite literally (2012)

Becks is going to take another shot at plugging his underwear line during this year's Super Bowl, and hopefully it can top the 5.36 rating our panel gave it two years ago. One would think that a soccer player in his underwear probably skews heavily toward one demographic, so 49th place sounds about right.


-- USA Today

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2014 A1

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