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Super Bowl commercials warn: beware of robots

Adage India 2019-02-03 05:30:00
TurboTax Live 2019 Super Bowl 'RoboChild' TV ad Credit: TurboTax

Super Bowl LIII advertisers have found some new stars for their Big Game commercials—robots and smart devices.

TurboTax, Pringles, Michelob Ultra and Sprint are among the brands that featured artificial intelligence in their commercials, and the depiction of the technology was not always pretty.

Intuit's TurboTax introduced "RoboChild" in its Super Bowl spot, a robot (depicted as a mechanical figure with a human-like face) who dreams of being a CPA, but doesn't quite have the emotional intelligence for the job. TurboTax's CPAs are real, live people, and not automated, is the message.


Human superiority is also a theme in both Michelob Ultra and Pringles' commercials. While the robots in Michelob Ultra's ad can beat any human in a race or while playing sports, at the end of the day they can't enjoy a beer the way a human can.


"It's a pro-human message," says Azania Andrews, VP or marketing at the Anheuser-Busch brew.

Similarly, an Alexa-like device laments her inability to eat Pringles in a spot titled "Sad Device."


Home security system SimpliSafe taps into America's fears in its first Super Bowl ad, which include robots and smart home devices taking over.


"All I am saying is in five years robots will be able to do your job," a guy says while sitting at a baseball game (with a robot eating a hotdog sitting behind him).

Later in the ad, a wife asks her husband while shopping in an electronics store if he is listening. A smart device answers, in a creepy voice, instead: "Always, Denise."

Even Amazon, which used a 90-second commercial in the Big Game to promote its Alexa device, displayed some of the pitfalls of the technology. In the spot, Alexa is shown embedded in a microwave. "We are putting her in a lot of stuff now," an employee says. "But trust me, there are a lot of fails."


Those "failures" include putting Alexa into Forest Whitaker's electric toothbrush; the collar of Harrison Ford's dog; and the hot tub of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. Then there was the "incident," where Alexa turned off the power of the entire Earth.

Interestingly, for a spot meant to promote the device, it also reminds people of the fears of artificial intelligence and the ways things can go wrong.