The early contender for silliest story of the week comes in Monday's Business section story by Stuart Elliott. Elliott is normally an ad columnist, but his review of Super Bowl commercials was portrayed as a straight news story, and even gets a front-page blurb: "Super Bowl Ads of Cartoonish Violence, Perhaps Reflecting Toll of War."
"No commercial that appeared last night during Super Bowl XLI directly addressed Iraq, unlike a patriotic spot for Budweiser beer that ran during the game two years ago. But the ongoing war seemed to linger just below the surface of many of this year's commercials.
"More than a dozen spots celebrated violence in an exaggerated, cartoonlike vein that was intended to be humorous, but often came across as cruel or callous."
"There was also a bank robbery (E*Trade Financial), fierce battles among office workers trapped in a jungle (CareerBuilder), menacing hitchhikers (Bud Light again) and a clash between a monster and a superhero reminiscent of a horror movie (Garmin)."
Um, actually, the obvious reference (which everyone else seemed to get) was that the commercial was a take-off on Japanese superhero Ultraman.
"It was as if Madison Avenue were channeling Doc in 'West Side Story,' the gentle owner of the candy store in the neighborhood that the two street gangs, the Jets and Sharks, fight over. 'Why do you kids live like there's a war on?' Doc asks plaintively. (Well, Doc, this time, there is.)"
Then Elliott reallywent off the deep end: "Then, too, there was the unfortunate homonym at the heart of a commercial from Prudential Financial, titled 'What Can a Rock Do?' The problem with the spot, created internally at Prudential, was that whenever the announcer said, 'a rock' - invoking the Prudential logo, the rock of Gibraltar - it sounded as if he were saying, yes, 'Iraq.'"
If you say so, Stu.
It's not the first time Elliott has inserted a bizarre political statement into his annual dissection of Superbowl commercials. From the Business Day section of January 28, 1997 on a commercial from Holiday Inn emphasizing the hotel chain's refurbishment strategy:
"Holiday Inn: The surgery that changed 'Bob' into the sexiest woman at the 1975 class reunion is likened to a makeover of the lodging chain by Bass PLC. The racy spot is ruined by the final shot, when a male classmate reacts to the new Bob with a horrified grimace. What's next, narrow rooms for the narrow-minded?"
And from February 7, 2005 (via Michelle Malkin), here's Elliott's synopsis of the Budweiser commercial he referenced at the top of his story: "Anheuser-Busch - A gauzy valentine to American troops, which ended with the Anheuser-Busch corporate logo superimposed on screen, was touching, but some viewers may have wondered whether 'Busch' had been misspelled." Hardy har-har.