Monday, February 05, 2007

The Super Bowl, Monster Brawls, And Your Brain

This was my favorite of the Super Bowl ads. I've seen funnier/more interesting/more useful ads in my time, but this one had me smiling. I liked the giant monster and robot man-in-suit rumble. The music was fun. Oh, and it reflected my deep malaise and discomfort about the violence of the Iraq war.

Wait, no it didn't. Yet the New York Times today has a ridiculously over-reaching analysis of the Super Bowl commercials which claims just that. The headline says it all: "Super Bowl Ads of Cartoonish Violence, Perhaps Reflecting Toll of War." Every little hint of slapstick humor in last night's commercials is seen as embodying feelings about the war. Although the above ad seems most clearly aimed at a nerdy demographic of greasy dudes who like Grim Reaper and Godzilla, Stuart Elliott, the NYT writer, decides the ad was "reminiscent of a horror movie." Sure, if you're willing to massage the evidence to fit your preconceived conclusion.

Keep reading for a discussion of your brain on Super Bowl ads.

Here's a more interesting analysis of some Super Bowl ads: hook viewers up to a NMRI machine and see how their brains react to the different commercials. I'm not sure about the actual scientific relevance of this. I seriously doubt that you can read too much into these NMRI results. But I found it interesting that one ad that Elliott singled out for praise, a General Motors ad about a assembly line robot with mad Johnny-Five-is-alive stylee, elicited anxiety in viewers.

The researchers behind the NMRI study say people noticed the ad, but their brains showed fear. Particularly, the subjects has increased activity in their amygdala (a brain region associated with anxiety and fear). The researchers guess that the fear is related to people experiencing job anxiety and economic insecurity. Exactly. As I watched that ad with my brother, I said to him, "Remember when we were growing up around Detroit, and everyone was talking about how those robots were stealing people's jobs? Now we're supposed to empathize with them?"

Apparently, the Federline burger-flipping ad had the same effect. I didn't feel anxious watching that one, though. My amygdala must have been hypnotized by his insane flow.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I am the only American who didn't even watch the Super Bowl, so I didn't see this ad. It is undeniably awesome, though. Clearly, Garmin hired a hip agency and let them have total control. It reminds me of the glorious commercials that aired during the dot com boom.