Looking back on the Super Bowl ads, good and bad

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Looking back on the Super Bowl ads, good and bad

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- 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 for two minutes about Detroit and Chrysler. An M&M candy 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 it was all so ordinary with fewer surprises. That's mostly because nearly half of the 70 Super Bowl advertisers put their spots out online in the days leading up to the game. That's a big difference from last year when only a few spots were released ahead of time. And the companies that did wait until game day for the "big reveal" didn't take many risks. In fact, most settled on cliche plots with kids, celebs, 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 their 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. A spot for clothing retailer H&M features soccer star David Beckham in black-and-white in his undies. And online florist Teleflora and automaker Kia both use Victoria Secret's model Adriana Lima in their Super Bowl ads. But perhaps the two most blatant examples of "letting it all hang out" came from car companies. Toyota's spot for its "reinvented" Camry 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. And among the few standouts for the night was a Fiat ad that equated seeing the car for the first time with making out with a sexy Italian super model. The tagline: "You'll never forget the first time you see one." "They did a good job of showing that some decisions are made with the heart, some decisions are made with the head and the Italian car decision resides in the groin," said Greg Dinoto, chief creative officer of advertising agency Deutsch in New York. "It was sexy and surprising and fun." BABIES AND DOGS, OH MY Who doesn't love cute animals and babies? Advertisers are banking there aren't many among us. That's why Doritos used both. One Doritos spot shows a man being bribed by a dog with the chips 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 who had been 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 the most popular. "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, of course. The dog then moon walks across the finish line. And software company 2nd Story Software's ad used toilet bowl humor, literally. The ad to promote its free TaxAct software shows a boy who looks everywhere to find a respectable place to relieve himself. He winds 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 stars 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." Chrysler's ad was among the few standouts on Sunday. "Those very few ads that weren't overexposed up front ended up with a real advantage," said Raymond Taylor, a professor of marketing at the Villanova School of Business in Villanova, Penn. Meanwhile, 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. And in an ad for Pepsi, "The X Factor" winner Melanie Amaro belts out "Respect" for music icon Elton John, who plays a king in the spot. "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? NOSTALGIA FACTOR Some advertisers attempted to tug at viewers' heart strings by stirring up old, 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 the movie. 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 remakes 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 Greene and actress Amy Sedaris (in the little boy role) giving Greene a can of Downy fabric softener.

This is becoming Willson Contreras' team, whether or not Cubs add Alex Avila or another veteran catcher

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USA TODAY

This is becoming Willson Contreras' team, whether or not Cubs add Alex Avila or another veteran catcher

This is slowly becoming more like Willson Contreras’ team, whether or not the Cubs add a veteran catcher like Alex Avila before the July 31 trade deadline. Yadier Molina took the in-game, All-Star photo of Nelson Cruz and Joe West, but Contreras is coming for moments like that, too.

In a Cubs clubhouse filled with calm, serious young players who were fast-tracked to Wrigleyville, Contreras is the one who got left exposed in the Rule 5 draft at the 2014 winter meetings and spent parts of eight seasons in the minors before making his big-league debut.

As much as the Cubs needed that ice-cold demeanor from guys like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to end the 108-year hex, they will use Contreras’ fire to try to win the World Series again.

“I feel like I’m in the heart of the team,” Contreras said. “I’m behind the plate. I just want to play with my energy, no matter if I hit or not. We need that energy for the second half. And it’s going to be there.”

The Cubs flipped a switch after the All-Star break, sweeping the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves and moving to within one game of the Milwaukee Brewers, their play screaming at Theo Epstein’s front office to keep buying. Contreras caught the first 45 innings of that six-game winning streak where the rotation finally clicked and hit .409 (9-for-22) with two homers, three doubles and seven RBIs on that road trip.

Contreras is a power source when a 49-45 team talks about going on a run and the defending World Series champs point to all this room to grow in the future. The model will be staring at Contreras this weekend at Wrigley Field when the Cubs try to keep the St. Louis Cardinals down (46-49) and give their front office something to think about (sell?) between now and July 31.

“We look at Yadier Molina,” catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello said. “We know that he’s just an intelligent baseball player. I always try to remind Willson: 'That’s what we’re trying to accomplish, making you not only a threat offensively and defensively, but with your mind.'

“He’s always listening. He wants to learn. He plays with high intensity, high emotion. I always challenge him to be a smart player. That’s the best compliment you can get.”

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

After a disappointing first half where it looked like the vaunted pitching infrastructure might collapse — and veteran catcher Miguel Montero went on an epic rant that could have foretold a divided clubhouse in the second half — Contreras seemed to be in the middle of everything.

With Contreras behind the plate, Jake Arrieta began his salary drive toward a megadeal, Jose Quintana dazzled in his Cubs debut, Jon Lester recovered from the worst start of his career and John Lackey pitched well enough to delay any awkward conversations about going home to Texas instead of going to the bullpen.

“It was never tough,” said Arrieta, who has chopped his ERA from 5.44 to 4.17 since the middle of May. “It was just a matter of him getting to understand what we like to do as starters.

“He’s learned really quickly. He’s a tremendous athlete back there. I’m very confident that I can bury a curveball, or I can throw a changeup in the dirt, and I know that guy’s going to block it, even with a guy on first or second base. There’s not a ton of guys around the league that you can feel that much confidence in.

“Willson’s been great, and he’s only going to get better.”

Quintana, who breezed through seven scoreless innings against the Orioles (12 strikeouts, zero walks) after that blockbuster trade with the White Sox, gave this review of Contreras: “We were on the same page really quick, believe me. We talked before the game about how we want to go, how we want to call our pitches. He called a really good game, and I appreciate that.”

The Cubs will still be looking for a more-PC version of Montero, whether it’s someone like Avila, who works for his dad, Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila, or circling back to an old target like Texas Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (essentially off-limits to a division rival when the Brewers shopped him last summer). Dropping Montero in late June forced Victor Caratini up from Triple-A Iowa, making Contreras the senior catcher with a World Series ring at the age of 25.

“It’s almost like a quarterback in the NFL — there’s so much for them to absorb,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When you come from the minors to the major leagues as a catcher, most of the time in the minor leagues, you’re just developing physical abilities, physical tools, blocking, footwork, throwing, maybe pitcher/catcher relationship.

“But understanding the calling of a game — it’s hard to really develop that on the minor-league level. You have the manager, then maybe a pitching coach and there’s a lot going on. You don’t have that time to put into the game plan or to sit down and talk to this guy. It’s a little bit more superficial. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way — it’s just the way it is.”

Whatever the Cubs do next, it will be with the idea of preserving Contreras in mind. Of the six big-league catchers qualified for the batting title, only two other catchers — World Series winners Buster Posey (.917) and Salvador Perez (.824) — have a higher OPS than Contreras (.822) so far this season. Among National League catchers, Contreras also has the most errors (13) and runners thrown out (19). Outside of Bryzzo, Contreras has the highest WAR (2.6) on the team.

If you think Contreras is emotional, energetic and entertaining now, just imagine what he will be like when he really knows what he’s doing.

“He asks all the right questions,” said Borzello, who won four World Series rings as a New York Yankees staffer. “We go over every game, and between every inning, we talk. We’re working in the right direction. I think he wants it as much as anyone I’ve ever been around.”

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for tight ends

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Thursday's unit: the tight ends.

1. Will Zach Miller make the 53-man roster?

Miller didn’t play a single down from 2012-14, and has missed seven games in two seasons with the Bears, but he’s been productive when on the field: 110 targets, 81 receptions, 925 yards and nine touchdowns. But the Bears signed Dion Sims to an $18 million contract and then drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round of the draft, moves that seemingly put Miller in a precarious position heading into Bourbonnais. Not helping Miller’s case is the Lisfranc fracture he suffered last November, which kept him sidelined through OTAs and veteran minicamp in May and June. He’d be a valuable player for the Bears to keep around, but at the same time, training camp could be a perfect storm for Miller to be among the cuts.

“They’re going to cutting it close for training camp,” coach John Fox said of Miller (and Danny Trevathan) in June. “But right now they’re right on target and that’s kind of what we expected all offseason.”

2. What can we expect from Adam Shaheen?

Shaheen was among the bright spots during May and June, hardly looking like someone who played his college ball at Division II Ashland while going against NFL defenders. But those were just shorts-and-helmets practices without any contact, so it’d be premature to project anything about Shaheen off of them. The real test for Shaheen will be when he puts the pads on in Bourbonnais and gets his first experience with the physicality of the NFL after a few years of being head and shoulders — literally — above his competition in college. It’s unlikely Shaheen will live up to his “Baby Gronk” hype in Year 1, but if he handles training camp well, he could be a valuable red zone asset for Mike Glennon as a rookie. 

“You don’t know until you put the pads on,” Shaheen said. “That’s what I’m excited for.”

3. How productive can this unit be?

Between Sims — who had a career high four touchdowns last year with the Miami Dolphins — and Shaheen, the Bears have two new, big targets for an offense that tied for 24th in the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns a year ago. If Miller sticks around, this group would have enviable depth. But even if he doesn’t, the Bears liked what they saw from Brown last year (16 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD in six games). There are fewer questions about the tight ends heading into training camp than the receivers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Glennon leans on this unit, especially early in the season.