Nothing is less real than sports. Often surrogated by our grand notions of state and identity, embodied into the fight of Us against Them, American football represents this dilemma every year.
The duelers are unimportant, however, as anyone who watches the Superbowl knows. The Superbowl is about ads.
Likely the largest expense made by the biggest brands across North America, this year’s proud sponsors include Bud Light, M&M’s, Michelob, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, Pringles, Cheetos, etc., etc., respectively.
Superbowl ads don’t start the day of, though. Anyone who grocery shops know that. They haunt junk food aisles for weeks before the match, immediately after the final dueling contestants are selected.
This year’s five-star pick for Superbowl LIV’s most haunting ad goes to Michelob Ultra and their new Organic Hard Seltzer. The scene, narrated by Christopher Walken, opens with various superstars doing superstar things—walking away from exploding things, staring down the chests of supermodels, playing tennis—while answering the question of what they want most. The answer: “a Hard Seltzer, certified USDA Organic, with no carbs and no sugar—‘cuz who needs it?’” says Sylvester Stallone.
Just for a second consider the fact that Michelob is supposedly selling you something equivalent to nothing with a side of drunkenness. We may pause to think of what exactly “it” refers to in the rhetorical question above…
Anyway, typical ad stuff so far. Here’s where things get freaky. Don Cheadle ziplines out of a helicopter onto his own yacht, where the camera already showed him reading a script.
“But in a world where most things seem real,” he says on the way down, “sometimes they’re not.”
His script-reading lookalike responds, “Hey, Don Cheadle.”
”Man, get off my boat.”
Cracking open a green-and-white seltzer can, Cheadle flaunts the goods: “Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer is real, and it tastes that way.”
Pulling out a pair of binoculars, Cheadles narrows in on the previously flaunted superstars. “You’re not real,” he says, one by one, exposing their deception. “Lookalikes,” all of them.
Finally, revealing the goods, “Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer”—As Real As It Tastes shows proudly in blue above the USDA certified organic label. And to top it all off, a thick-voiced Asian man is shown in a recording booth saying “Oh, and I’m not Christopher Walken.” The screen goes black.
Unfortunately, Michelob is absolutely right.
Today, what’s most real is what’s consumed.