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The year Superbowl ads got serious

This year, Superbowl ads — once entertainment hubs for those interested in the big game or not — seem to have taken a more serious note, whether trying to convey hard realities or getting interest groups to draw battle lines.

Nearly everyone, it seemed, found something to hate in television's most coveted commercial spots.

"The first half of the Super Bowl was heavy on dark, grim and outright depressing ads," Slate's Alison Griswold wrote.

Evangelical Christians were outraged at a Carnival Cruise ad that featured the voice of John F. Kennedy musing on human connection to the ocean.

Gluten-free advocates began a petition reacting to NASCAR's spot poking fun at eating gluten as being dangerous. The activists claimed the ad was insensitive to those who suffer from celiac disease, a physical intolerance to gluten.

"When our idea of danger is eating gluten, there’s trouble afoot,” comedian Nick Offerman said in the commercial. “Yes, we the people have gotten soft, and all the 'likes' in the world aren’t going to save us now. But one thing will, and it rhymes with 'MASCAR.' ”

Much media attention was also given to Nationwide insurance's sad commercial depicting a child bemoaning all the things he'll never be able to do — because he was killed in an accident.

"Some parents who've lost children talked about anguish that was stirred up when they saw the ad. Other people say it was just out of place and in poor taste, even capitalizing on parents' worst fears," said NPR's Rachel Greene.

#Nationwide was a trending hashtag on Twitter following the ad's spot, with Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings tweeting, "The Seahawks haven't completed a pass but on the plus side I haven't killed any of my kids."

"It's like the sponsors were trying to capture the gnawing guilt most reasonable human beings feel when they tune in to watch four hours of subconcussive brain traumas," Rolling Stone wrote of the commercial package post-game.

Whether trying to illicit guilt or bring awareness to a larger message in lieu of belly laughs, the Atlantic pointed to another reason superbowl ads might have seemed off to a lot of people this year: Americans have a very skewed idea of what matters in life.

"America might think this identity breakdown can be solved by buying a Chevy Colorado ... but America is wrong," Sophie Gilbert wrote. "By the time that rad bro was running away from two life-sized iridescent Pac Man thingummies, and everyone was cheering ... it was indeed obvious: America isn’t very good at growing up."


Twitter: ChandraMJohnson