NEW YORK >> The pressure was on. The tension was thick. And then, there were yawns in between.
The Super Bowl may have been a nail biter, but the ads were a snooze.
Actor Clint Eastwood waxed about Detroit and Chrysler. An M&M stripped "naked" at a party. And stars from the 90s were everywhere, as were dogs and babies, of course.
Companies paid an average of $3.5 million for a 30-second spot for the right to duke it out Sunday in front of the expected 111 million-plus fans. But there were fewer surprises.
That’s mostly because nearly half of the 70 Super Bowl advertisers put their spots out in the days ahead of the game. And then the ones that waited until game day for the "big reveal" didn’t take many risks. Most settled on the cliché themes: babies, celebrities, sex and humor.
"Advertisers this year are playing it very safe," said Tim Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University. "They’re running spots that are clearly designed to appeal to a broad audience and not to offend."
Here’s a look at the game’s ads, play by play:
Sex sells — or at least advertisers hope it does
Advertisers showed a little skin in this year’s Super Bowl.
An ad for domain name-hosting site GoDaddy shows racecar driver Danica Patrick and fitness expert Jillian Michaels body painting a nude woman. An ad for clothing retailer H&M features soccer star David Beckham in black-and-white in his new line of undies. And online florist Teleflora and automaker Kia both use Victoria Secret’s model Adriana Lima.
But perhaps the most blatant example was Toyota’s spot for its "reinvented" Camry. The ad features a "reinvented" couch made up of women wearing bikinis.
"It also comes in male," a voiceover in the ad says while showing a couch of shirtless men.
Babies and dogs, oh my
Who doesn’t love cute animals and babies? Advertisers were banking there are none among us.
That’s why Doritos used both. One Doritos spot shows a man being bribed by a dog with Doritos to keep the animal’s dirty secret about a cat’s disappearance. In another spot, a grandmother uses a slingshot to hoist a baby up to grab a bag of Doritos that belongs to a boy in a tree that was taunting the baby with the chips.
Those two ads were crowd favorites, said Peter Dabol, who analyzes advertising effectiveness at research firm Ace Metrix. The firm polled 500 viewers about the ads to find their favorites.
"It’s a typical Super Bowl, funny carries the day," he said. "Advertisers are driving for attention and likeability."
Likewise, Skechers shoe company introduced its new running sneaker with an ad showing a French bulldog winning a greyhound race by wearing the shoes. Volkswagen ad portrays a dog that loses weight to be able to chase a Beetle.
And in software company 2nd Story Software’s ad took was toilet boil humor, literally. The ad to promote its free TaxAct software shows a boy who looks everywhere to find a respectable place to relief himself. He ends up going in a pool.
The tagline: "Totally free. Feels good."
The stars were out
Celebrities always draw attention. And advertisers took a gamble that using celebs alone would be enough to grab attention.
Chrysler, one of nine automakers advertising during the game, aired a Super Bowl ad starring Clint Eastwood. The aging actor talks about the rebirth of Chrysler and Detroit. The two-minute "Imported from Detroit" ad, one of the few spots that weren’t released before the game, follows the company’s ad last year that starred rapper Eminem.
"How do we come from behind, how do we come together and how do we win?" he asks. "Detroit is showing us it can be done. What’s true about them is true about all of us."
Real-estate company Century 21’s ad shows that a real estate agent is able to outdo speed skater Apolo Ohno on the ice, business mogul Donald Trump in business and former football player Deion Sanders at an open house.
In an ad for Pepsi, "The X Factor" winner Melanie Amaro belts out "Respect" for King Elton John. "Pepsi for all," she says. At the end of the ad, John finds himself in the dungeon with rapper and reality TV star Flavor Flav.
Remember that? The Nostalgia Factor
Some advertisers attempted to tug at viewers’ heart strings by stirring up old and fond memories.
Honda’s ad for its compact sports-utility vehicle CR-V shows actor Matthew Broderick living a grown-up version of his 1986 hit movie "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The ad includes two dozen references to "Ferris Bueller’s Day off.
Likewise, an Acura NSX ad features 1990s comedic titan Jerry Seinfeld battling with late-night talk show host Jay Leno over the sportscar. The ad includes Seinfeld references like a cameo by the "Soup Nazi" character.
And during Downy’s pre-game ad, the company remades one of the most classic commercials of all time, Coke’s 1980 spot "Mean Joe Greene." In the original, a little boy gives a gruff football player Joe Greene a Coke as he comes off the field. The Downy remake stars Green and actress Amy Sedaris in the little boy role giving Green a can of Downy fabric softener.