Classical Music in 2012 Super Bowl Ads

Saturday, February 04, 2012 - 06:00 PM

Ahmad Bradshaw (L) of the New York Giants (Getty Images)

Bach, Beethoven, Rossini, Verdi and Philip Glass were among the composers to appear in the commercial lineup during Super Bowl XLVI.

The Sunday night event represented advertising's biggest stage, with an estimated U.S. television viewership of 110 million people. Advertisers spent an average of $3.5 million for 30-second commercials.

As in past years, brands like Coke, Volkswagen and Doritos demonstrated a particular interest in classical composers but not every choice was an obvious one. Best Buy, most notably, featured a snippet from Philip Glass's 1982 chamber work, Glassworks.

Which was your favorite? Least favorite? Is the Super Bowl good for classical music? Watch the spots below and share your reactions in the comments.

Updated: Feb. 5, 10:08 pm ET

1. This 60-second spot touts the reinvented Toyota Camry, as well as everything else the automaker has "reinvented," such as the person-couch, the DMV and time-traveling baby. Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra sets the scene:

2. Coca-Cola's cute, caffeinated polar bears make a return to the small screen in a commercial featuring Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and scarves that correspond to the team’s colors:

3. The Imperial March from John Williams's "Star Wars" goes to the dogs in this 60-second spot for Volkswagen, one of the most popular pre-game spots with several million views and counting on YouTube.



4. Doritos uses Rossini's Overture to Barber of Seville in its "Man's Best Friend" spot. Random fact: The company used the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen in 2007.

5. A Best Buy spot shows the inventors of things like the camera phone and the game app Words with Friends. In the background we hear "Floe" from Philip Glass's Glassworks.

6. Doritos dishes out another operatic favorite with "La Donna E Mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto in its "Sling Baby" commercial:

7. J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I accompanies this Time Warner spot featuring Ricky Gervais, who sits at a table at an outdoor restaurant, denying a friend request on Facebook. The plot then morphs into a wild action movie plot with explosions, chases and zombies.

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Comments [10]

Ramen from Brooklyn

I swear I saw a coca-cola commercial with the 2nd movement during the game...

Feb. 09 2012 01:09 AM
Old Guy in NJ

After spending all that money for the spot itself, you have to cut corners somewhere ...and there are no royalties on the classics!

Feb. 08 2012 09:16 PM
Giulio from Rome, Italy & Brooklyn, Usa

I like them all. Because when classical music becomes pop music it destroys the stupid but very widespread assumption that classical is difficult to understand whereas pop is easy.

Feb. 06 2012 01:50 PM
Max L from Sunnyside, NY

Thanks for the great article, Brian. I caught most of these but missed the Glass.

A co-worker of mine has a great blog that touches the idea of classical music in all different places and circumstances. It's called Where'd I Hear That Before: wheredihearthat.blogspot.com

Feb. 06 2012 12:24 PM

Most definitely the best was the Beethoven Polar Bears. Also, for all you acapella nuts out there the Hyundai commercial with the factory workers singing the song from "Rocky" was awesome!

Feb. 06 2012 11:34 AM
Randy West from East Aurora, NY

To get back to the topic, yeah, I think using classical music in commercials is great. I just wish that there were more ways than just this blog to make people aware of how much classical music they actually hear and know. I found this site by searching on "classical music superbowl commercials." I kept hearing the themes, but I couldn't identify them. So thanks for posting this.

Feb. 06 2012 11:14 AM
TXC from Manhattan

Nothing says "serious" like some good ol' Phil Glass music! Yessir! Congrats, Giants!

Feb. 06 2012 12:42 AM
Mark from Northeastern PA

Oh man if only the polar bear held the bottle of Coke against its head during the catch and crash ala David Tyree. How ironic that would have been.

Feb. 05 2012 12:44 PM
connie nardone from Nassau county

Brush up your Shakespeare.
Start quoting him now.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow.
If you give them a quote from Othello
They will think you're a regular fellow.
Brush up your Shakespeare
And they'll all kow-tow.
Great musical, great film.

Feb. 05 2012 10:18 AM
June Salzman from Fair Lawn, NJ

Mr. Garland......"Brush up Your Shakespeare" did not come from "Guys and Dolls." It is from "Kiss Me Kate" by Cole Porter.

Feb. 04 2012 06:33 PM

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