Jay Leno, Sad Robots, Chickens And Betty White: The Best Ads From Super Bowl XLIV

The door has closed on another NFL season, and the New Orleans Saints have walked away as champions for the first time in the franchise’s oft-troubled existence. Sunday night’s (February 7) Super Bowl was an exciting back-and-fourth affair that hinged on a tiny mistake by normally surgical Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning.

But the main event — Super Bowl commercials — was the weakest in recent memory. In a down economy, apparently companies are less willing to invest the $3 million it sets them back for 30 seconds of ad time during the biggest television event of the year. A number of notable regulars sat out this time around (most notably Pepsi) and the sense of playfulness and fun that normally surrounds Super Bowl ads was largely absent, replaced by a lot of spots that actually had the gall to try to sell things (this means you, foreign car companies).

Still, there were a handful of ads that managed to raise some eyebrows and call forth some chuckles. Here are the top five.

Oprah’s Super Bowl Party
For: “The Late Show with David Letterman”
Synopsis: David Letterman sits on a couch and complains about how terrible his Super Bowl party is. Oprah Winfrey tries to talk him down, then the camera reveals that Jay Leno is also sitting on the couch. “It’s because I’m here,” says Leno.
Impact: After spending a month taking shots at one another on their respective shows, Letterman and Leno have apparently buried the hatchet enough to spend time on a sound stage to shoot an ad. Had they gotten Conan O’Brien to make a cameo, it really would have turned heads. Still, we’ll take any sort of comment on the late night wars where we can get it.

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Betty White Gets Laid Out
For: Snickers
Synopsis: Everyone’s favorite “Golden Girl” plays a game of pickup football and gets laid out by a much larger dude. Only the power of a candy bar can shape-shift him back to an actual human being (turns out he’s just a dude who’s hungry).
Impact: White is funny in just about everything, and the stinger at the end — featuring Abe Vigoda — added an extra bit of hilarity. Plus: Violence!

The Sad Robot In The Lunchroom
For: Intel
Synopsis: Scientists at Intel talk openly about the best thing they’ve ever created, which makes the lunch-serving robot incredibly sad.
Impact: Sad robots are always entertaining. Plus, it managed to erase the memory of the creepy group of Intel employees singing the little jingle.

President Ba-Bock Obama
For: Denny’s
Synopsis: The free Grand Slam Breakfast is back, and this worries the world’s chickens, who take their concern to the streets, into space and all the way to the White House.
Impact: Delightfully weird and lo-fi, the screaming chickens (along with the image of the chicken president) made for some delightful third quarter “WTF?” moments.

Search Your Way To Happiness
For: Google
Synopsis: The audience sees nothing but a Google search bar, which begins with searches for French phrases, evolves into quests for jobs and real estate in Paris and ends with searches for wedding and baby planning.
Impact: Simple, strangely emotional and deeply affecting, Google proves that even a search engine can have a soul.

Finally, if there was a booby prize handed out to a corporation last night, it would be difficult to determine whether to give it to Doritos or Coca-Cola. Both companies had multiple spots that were long on concept and short on laughs. The Doritos dog and the Doritos samurai were especially flat, and Coca-Cola totally wasted “The Simpsons” on a joke-free trip through Springfield.

What do you think? What were your favorite ads from Super Bowl XLIV? Did you enjoy all the spots featuring dudes with no pants, or did you think the 2010 version of “The Super Bowl Shuffle” should get some props? Leave your thoughts in the comments!