For those who watch the Super Bowl, commercials are often more enjoyable than the game. Advertisers spend good money and dedicate a significant part of the year to developing memorable 30-second Super Bowl ads.
When the U.S. federal government spent $2.5 million for a commercial to promote awareness of the 2010 Census, it succeeded in creating something memorable. Unfortunately, it is remembered for all the wrong reasons. That commercial was so confusing and dry that it may be the worst Super Bowl commercial of all time.
The commercial features an eccentric fictional film director who wants to capture all Americans in a single shot. A member of his production team says, “Isn’t that kinda what the Census is doing?”
In theory, the commercial was a blend of absurdism, dry humor, and subtlety. Its target demographic was upper-middle-class people. The humor was apparently too absurd, dry, and subtle to be funny. On top of that, studies had shown that upper-middle-class people were already likely to participate in the Census, so the whole thing was a rather pointless exercise.
The Census Bureau came under immediate criticism. Senator John McCain said, “While the Census is very important… we shouldn’t be wasting $2.5 million taxpayer dollars to compete with ads for Doritos!”
The commercial was so bad that it aired only one time. Many of those who saw it were left scratching their heads about what it was all about.
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