Episode 188: No Drop Trou for Bizarro

The Overthinkers tackle Super Bowl ads.

Overthinking It PodcastMatthew Wrather, Peter Fenzel, David Shechner and Jordan Stokes overthink Super Bowl ads, the transformation in contemporary marketing, the year of the dog, hashtag, & worker, and pooping on the field.

0:00–6:59 Question of the Week.
7:00–20:00 Marketing strategy; dogs, robot factories, and The Avengers.
24:00–27:59 Puppy Bowl’s Socratic purity.
28:00–34:00 Half time show.
34:01–41:59 Epic poetry of Ahmad Bradshaw.
42:00–56:59 David Beckham’s underwear and thresholds of potential rejection.
57:00–1:09:00 Old Navy ad deconstruction.


→ Download Episode 188 (MP3)

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Further Reading

Micro Bio-Spin® Columns with Bio-Gel® P-30

Polar Soda’s Conflict with Coke

Watch 2012 Super Bowl Commercials

Puppy Bowl VIII

“Anxiety relievable by purchase,” from David Foster Wallace, and other quotes about advertising on GoodReads

Bizarro, on the Superman Wiki

“Bizarro,” from Sealab 2021

24 Comments on “Episode 188: No Drop Trou for Bizarro”

  1. Amanda #




    Starting a new #Omardies style campaign. Migrate Harvey (and Wrather’s delightful singing) to TFT perhaps?

    I now hold a grudge against all the Harvey haters out there. You know who you are, you, people who don’t commment.


    • cat #

      Agreed, Amanda. But if Harvey is really a problem, why not change it up with another voice? Patti Lupone? Bernadette Peters? Plenty of material…


      • Gab #

        I think part of why Harvey works is because his voice is distinct, but if you do the right… things… with your throat, anybody that know’s Harvey’s voice will know you’re imitating him- even if the impression isn’t all that great.

        I see it now, though. Lee starts off, “As long aaaaas there’s Christmaaas, I trulyyyyy belieeeeeve…” And Perich picks up and they sing jointly, “That hope iiiiis the greateeeeeest of the gifts weeeee’ll receeeeeeeive…”

        Wow, it gives me chills.

        Awesome impressions:



        • Timothy J Swann #

          I was pretty neutral on Harvey on OTI until I saw him on The Good Wife and turned straight to his side.


          • Gab #

            Great show, great choice.

    • Sheely #

      Mr. Fierstein is welcome to join our experimental noise collective at any time!

      Might as well continue the trend of having TFT be the refuge for all confounding, confrontational, and potentially alienating aspects of OTI.


      • Amanda #

        God bless the distasteful black hole that is TFT :)


  2. Chris #

    I don’t think Ahmad Bradshaw was prepared to go from running full speed to trying to stop on a dime when that is something he never has to do. It’s sort of like a baseball player checking their swing, only he has less practice at it.

    It was M.I.A. who extended her middle finger, not Nicki Minaj. I managed to miss seeing it. I also managed to miss Janet Jackson even though I watched that halftime show as well.

    I don’t watch advertisements, so I was flipping channels at those points, and I came across the football movie The Replacements on one channel. That seems like very strange counterprogramming, even if every channel is more or less just ceding that time to the Super Bowl.

    In conclusion, football is great.


    • fenzel #

      Well, the middle finger thing (from M.I.A., sorry) was blocked out even in the live broadcast. The pictures of it and such are all taken from elsewhere. Her attempt at empty controversy failed.

      And yes, Footballahu Akbar.


  3. Gab #

    Zombie musicals, what?


    I’m surprised PETA doesn’t get upset about the Puppy Bowl, though. The puppies looked reeeally scared at the end when all the confetti started falling. But you know what, I thought the commentating for that was better than the commentating for the Super Bowl. And lots of product placement for those mints, Icebreakers, I think…

    The tightrope guy was compared to Nero at my party. Hm.

    The H&M ad was still male fantasy, even if it wasn’t women simulating fellatio or something like that (like that Italian car ad you were talking about- I also thought it was for Axxe, too!). In the back of your mind, Wrather, there isn’t at least a very minute part of you that wishes you had a bod like that? Compare it to the men’s fragrance ads with dudes surfing and stuff. It’s the aspiration thing they’re going for. But I don’t think it’s necessarily anxietym (Fenzel). Are fantasy/asipiration and anxiety intrinsically related? Hm, something to ponder… Anyway, Cracked.com had an article recently about the top 5 most objectifying superhero outfits, and the #1 was a dude in a speedo-type thing, and they do a good job talking about it.


    • Gab #

      By puppies, I meant kittens. During the half-time show.


  4. LeighH #

    When I saw the GE commercials, I was immediately reminded of the popular anecdote (from the #occupy era) that GE paid zero taxes. I felt like maybe the commercials were trying to justify that fact by bragging that they provided jobs and worked hard. Or maybe they were simply buying back some of the social capital that they automatically lost by being a giant corporation. GE (ie the enterprise version of the company portrayed in the commercials) is certainly not selling any product but its own image.

    Extra funny show tonight, by the way.


  5. cat #

    Ahem… Yay, Shechner! Buffers and prions? You’re spoiling me. :)


    • shechner OTI Staff #

      Yay, Cat! I do my best to please. :) Alas, regarding prions, we didn’t even get into the eternal “PRY-on” vs. “PRE-on” debate. An eternal struggle, that.


  6. benzado Member #

    I’m surprised you found the Coke Zero guy in the Pepsi commercial so surprising. First of all, he’s a recurring character; that same actor, in that same hat, has been caught buying or drinking Pepsi Max dozens of times. (When will he learn?) Second, Pepsi has a long history of pitting itself against Coca-Cola in its ads (all the way back to The Pepsi Challenge) whereas Coke NEVER mentions Pepsi.

    It’s an underdog thing. The underdog defines itself by battling the big dog, and the big dog stays classy by not even acknowledging the underdog.

    I’m not as familiar with the truck market, but I’ll bet Chevy mentions Ford in its ads for similar reasons. Fenzel claims it is a characteristic of Chevy owners to make digs at Ford, but I don’t think the ad was trying to tap into that behavior so much as that behavior is a product of previous marketing that casts Chevy as the underdog to Ford.


    • Leigh #

      This kinda makes sense, but there’s no sense from the ads (past and present) that Pepsi or Chevrolet acknowledges itself as an underdog. So the sense of underdogness would have to stem from a general public knowledge that the company is stuck in second place. Is that something they expect everyone to know?


      • Rambler #

        I don’t think that he means that the story of the commercial is “hey we’re the under-dog”. Just that name checking the big competition is something that the under-dog does.

        Companies with that level of name recognition get a bit of diminishing returns from advertising that tries to introduce themselves to a new market. So a lot of their advertising is tribalistic, focusing on stirring desire within their already existing market.

        The leader in the field can be content with indirect marketing (cgi polar bears and whimsical star wars tie ins) where an under dog is more likely to feel that they’re on an “at war” stance and directly call attention to the tribal lines.

        In the auto industry it seems a bit more tangled than that, but that’s mostly because the USA auto companies all have under dog complexes.

        ps. regarding the Coke delivery guy sneaking a Pepsi… that’s also not the first time they’ve used that song.

        pps. Great podcast! I don’t feel like I missed the [trademark] Bowl at all!


  7. Paul #

    Pete, if you want to know how to light a tire fire, just ask “Siri, what is the best way to set tires on fire?” Don’t try it with a Scottish accent though. That seems to cause problems. Try Harvey.


  8. Braintree9 #

    Dear OTI,

    I missed the game live, but finally watched the halftime show. I think we all somehow missed that this was Madonna’s Nuremberg style campaign rally to have her elected God-Queen of the world. Nearly every moment of the performance was intended to re-enforce a cult of personality around Madonna.

    The egypto-roman entrance is only the tip of a very large iceberg.

    The imagry and conversion call becomes especially pronounced following the end of the LMFAO segment. We transition into the new Madonna song ‘LUV Madonna’ (not sure if that is the title) where we are all encouraged by the cheerleaders to come and join in the chant of “L U V Madonna, Y O U you Wanna!” Which later includes lines like ‘give me all you love’, ‘step into my world’, ‘you have all the L O V E I gave you, everything you need’.

    This song immediately transitions into “Open you heart to ME” sung in in the most martial possible fashion over a marching band drum line. Her 4 star general C-Lo continues to exhort the masses with the sames lines sung in classic gospel fashion, drawing us closer to our God-Empress.

    Finally the religious implication become explicit with “Like a Prayer”, including the chorus of ‘When you call my name it’s like a prayer’. I don’t think I’m crazy to see the implication of the crowd being called to worship Madonna. Briefly during the song we are able to see on the digital floor projection a map of the world with the various continents in flames. The final image on the floor after the goddess’s apocalyptic departed are the words “World Peace”, in a flame-like font. This suggests a one world government under our benevolent musical despot.

    Add all of this to the fact we are all watching America’s greatest annual secular religious event. Admittedly, a world run by our God-Empress Madonna would be an awesome dance pop one-world-order I can get behind.

    I think this halftime show is of great enough long term social import to warrant an Overview by you guys. Just a thought… Hope this didn’t seem to crazy.

    Thanks for all the fantastic analysis.


  9. JTStavrogin #

    This is what global pop culture has wrought:

    a)I’m not from the US, nor do I live in the US. I don’t have any particular interest in the NFL or the Super Bowl.

    b)I hate advertisement and try to avoid it whenever possible, first of all by not watching any network TV.


    I have tracked down a bunch of ‘Super Bowl ads compilation’ youtube videos before listening to this podcast and reading the 100s of posts in my RSS feeds referencing them…
    Definitely a tribute to the success of the overall concept too. The through-the-roof prices sure seem legitimate, in this light.


  10. Rob #

    Sorry, I’m behind on my OTI listening, but I knew there were many more “Buddies” movies slipping below the radar. It looks like there have been at least 4 sequels to Air Bud that went direct to video. The phenomenon then switched to Air Buddies (sons of Air Bud), followed by Snow Buddies, Santa Buddies, Space Buddies, Spooky Buddies, and now Treasure Buddies, all of which were direct to dvd. Godspeed to anyone who could watch and overthink them all. I’m not up to the task.


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