Culture Clips: About Those Super Bowl Ads …

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A few days ago, the world was treated to one of the best Super Bowls in history. But some viewers couldn’t have  cared less about the game: They were in it for the commercials.

Advertisers go all out for their Super Bowl spots, and well they should. In this age of entertainment fragmentation, the Big Game is about the only event left that can draw in a good chunk of the country. It’s why even with professional football ratings down this year, the price for a 30-second spot was still $5 million, or $166,667 per second. (Just one of many reasons why you’re unlikely to see Plugged In advertised during the Super Bowl.)

So what ads did viewers like, according to USA Today’s annual Super Bowl Ad Meter? Google’s Alexa losing her voice was tops, while Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.’s literal spin on Dirty Dancing came in a very close second. Budweiser placed third with a commercial highlighting not the company’s beer, but the water it’s donated during national disasters.

Other companies could’ve probably saved their money. Dodge Ram earned plenty of raspberries for using a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. to sell trucks, while Hyundai didn’t fare especially well, either. (Originally, the company had planned to air almost-live footage for its “Hope Detector” spots, but scrapped that strategy at the last minute.).

Other losers from Sunday, besides Dodge Ram and, well, naturally, the New England Patriots? Justin Timberlake. While the Parents Television Council was grateful that there were no “wardrobe malfunctions” this year, others were less enthused. The Washington Post went so far as to say that Timberlake actually “lost the Super Bowl,” and the fact that he co-opted a hologram of Prince certainly didn’t help.

Perhaps the NFL will look at the Super Bowl’s ratings—huge, but the lowest in nine years—and point the finger of blame at Timberlake. Or all that kneeling during the season. Or the fact that we were all sick of the Patriots being in every single one. (Perhaps I’m just speaking for myself.)  But is it possible that the league’s issues with concussions are part of the issue, too?  A new video called “Concussion Protocol,” depicting every concussion reported in the NFL this year, is making the rounds. It’s worth noting that NBC’s Bob Costas didn’t participate in this year’s Super Bowl by a “mutually agreeable” decision, and Costas’ lack of enthusiasm for the event was largely due to his worries the sport causes brain damage. “It’s the elephant in the stadium at every game whether others choose to acknowledge it or not,” he told Sports Business Daily. “And it’s not going away.”

But if the NFL was perhaps a bit disappointed in the Super Bowl’s ratings, the same can’t be said of NBC’s This Is Us, which drew a whopping 27 million viewers for its episode directly following the big game.

Oh, by the way, the postgame was remarkably faith-friendly, too (something I’ve opined about elsewhere).

Since we’re probably all still trying to digest all those nachos and potato chips we ate during the Super Bowl commercials last weekend, perhaps it’s not the best time to tell you of a new study that found television ads encourage kids to binge on junk food (a shock, I’m sure, to all the junk food manufacturers who spend millions on ads).

With the big game over, we’re now free to turn our attention to other things … like the Olympics! The Games are getting under way a bit later this week. But if the number of condoms being distributed to the athletes are any indication—a record 110,000, or 37.6 condoms per athlete—the game’s skiers and skaters aren’t going to PyeongChang with their minds solely on their events.

Some of us are also looking forward to the release of Black Panther, which has gotten rave reviews thus far. And some kids in Mississippi are going to get to see the flick for free, courtesy Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer. “I think I will buy out a theatre in an underserved community there to ensure that all our brown children can see themselves as a superhero,” she wrote on Instagram. (We haven’t seen Black Panther yet, but don’t worry … we’ll tell you all about it when we do.)

While Spencer is encouraging kids to see something on the big screen, others are trying to discourage them to use a small one. Some big players are chipping in to sponsor a Truth About Tech initiative, aimed at educating folks on the dangers of being always tethered to phones and other technological outlets. Meanwhile, some experts are still debating whether tech addiction is “a real thing.”

Whether it is or not, Apple has come to realized that buyers are certainly not addicted to their pricey new iPhone X’s. The company has halved production of its flagship product. Meanwhile, Nintendo just might be ramping up production of its wildly popular Switch consol. It’s now sold nearly 15 million devices in 10 months, already surpassing the total number of Wii U units Nintendo sold in that console’s entire history.

But not everyone is in the market for a Switch. No, some people are in the market for something a little more … terrifying? How else can we explain the fact that Elon Musk—yes, of Tesla fame—has sold 10,000 flamethrowers on his Boringcompany website? (And he’s getting publicity this week for launching a Tesla into orbit, too.)

It’s hard for me to grasp why people would want a flamethrower. But at $500 each—literally one-ten-thousandth the cost of a Super Bowl commercial—they kinda feel like a bargain.