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Saturday essay: Throat lumps

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Madison Avenue usually is the purveyor of cheap gags and the overtly suggestive in its advertising. But it took the rare step to something resembling class in two Super Bowl ads. While this likely doesn't foretell a sea change, the pond ripple is welcome.

There were the expected silly and gross ads. The Doritos-eating goat comes to mind. So, too, does the ad featuring the supermodel and the plump nerd in a graphic kiss that surely made more than a few parents watching with their children say, “Hey, we forgot to check your homework!”

But there were two works of art.

The Budweiser ad featuring the trademark Clydesdale that remembered his trainer of three years past tugged heartstrings and squeezed tear ducts. And the Dodge Ram pickup truck commercial that featured a classic Paul Harvey ode to “the farmer” was a heartfelt tip of the hat to Americana's core. It was the stuff of throat lumps.

There was no “Buy! Buy! BUY!” in either. Neither were there any operators standing by. Rather, these commercials made us stop, pause, think, perhaps even cry.

Yes, television largely remains the “vast wasteland” that FCC Chairman Newton Minow characterized it as in his iconic 1961 speech. And its commercials, as he also put it then, largely remain “screaming, cajoling and offending” affairs. But for a brief few moments last Sunday night, television and Madison Avenue shined.

— Colin McNickle

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