A Super Bowl LIV Surprise

By Patricia Chadwick

As a diehard New England Patriots’ fan, I was wondering last Saturday how I would get through Super Bowl LIV – would I find myself bored to tears? Torn between which team to root for, I made a last-minute decision to support the Kansas City Chiefs. Why not? They’d been “in the desert” for fifty years, and I’m an underdog lover (except when it comes to the Patriots).

As far back as I can remember, Super Bowl Sunday has been solely (for me at any rate) about the game itself. I’ve never given a whit about the myriad ads that would be the water cooler conversation in the office on Monday morning. I’d use commercial breaks as an opportunity to make popcorn or tidy up the kitchen or get more beer. Perhaps growing up devoid of any exposure to television and the accompanying world of advertisements inured me to the appeal (or as I thought of it – the “madness”) of Super Bowl ads.
But this past weekend I was pondering, “What if the entire four hours is a giant bore?” Outside of Patrick Mahomes, I couldn’t name a single Chiefs player. So, I came up with a solution (of sorts), asking family members, in far flung cities across the country, to text me their ratings of the commercials as they came on. “Just a simple 1 – 5 system,” I said, “and you can add a single adjective to explain your thinking.”

We agreed, for the sake of maintaining civility, that no political ads would be rated, nor would we bother with movie or tv show ads.

Throughout the game I was peppered with texts, comments and the occasional editorial notation, e.g. “What a waste of $10 million” (for the Squarespace ad) from around the country as well as from the baby boomers and millennials who were watching the game at home with me.

I was anticipating that this experimental exercise would both exaggerate and accentuate the differences between baby boomers (my generation) and millennials, as well as “cuspers” – those late Gen Xers or early Gen Yers who’d rather die than admit to being tainted as millennials.

But here’s what my totally unscientific research uncovered – Depression babies (now octogenarians), baby boomers, 40-something “cuspers” and an array of millennials were nearly identical in their reactions to the ads.

The favorites were universally the same – the Jeep Gladiator ad with Bill Murray took first place, followed by (not in rank order) Rocket Mortgage, Dash Lane, Doritos (old fashioned but appealing to young and old alike), Alexa (with Ellen DeGeneres), and Hyundai (OK it was those silly attempts at Boston accents that won us over). The NFL ad was a unanimous 5 as well. Even the ad for Secret deodorant was a hit with guys of all ages.

And, interestingly, we were also in agreement regarding the dullest ads of the evening – McDonalds, Pepsi, Snickers, Walmart, Coca Cola, Bud Light Seltzer, Pop Tarts – Hmmmmm all food related!!

Admittedly, the youngest of the millennials found a different, should I say more contemporary, frame of reference and appeal in some of the ads, but overall, humor seemed to be the theme of the evening. Was that the common cross-generational appeal?
As I scrolled through the texts again a day later, I got to thinking: how is it that the staid and retired baby boomers were so in tune with the “spoiled” millennials? Aren’t WE and THEY supposed to be at polar ends of the social/ideological spectrum?

But hold on – let’s go back some five decades, to a time before the internet and social media, before the ability to multitask with an array of electronic devices and thus work from anywhere, dressed in anything. In that relative Neanderthal era of the late 1960’s, we baby boomers were the “spoiled” bad boys and girls, holding bra-burning rallies, locking our college professors in their classrooms and chanting the slogan, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” I was there and remember it well – that’s part of our heritage. Truth be told, today’s millennials are far less obnoxious or radical than we Boomers once were.

And then when we quieted down, we got married and had children and guess what – those children are today’s millennials!! Hmmm – is it, as they say, “Apples don’t fall far from the tree” or is it simply part of the cycle of life? In a generation’s time, today’s millennials will have replaced us boomers and will be dealing with their own version of themselves as twenty-somethings. They’ll all survive.

The reality is that our generational bonds far outstrip our generational divides. How appreciative we should be!

Oh, by the way, my team won!