Top Dad Ads from Super Bowl Sunday 2013

I have not seen all of the Super Bowl ads yet, but did it seem as if car makers and others were pitching directly to parents last night? Maybe it’s just our middle-aged bias clouding our judgment. Here, through a father’s eyes, are the Top Dad Ads from Super Bowl Sunday 2013:

1. The Flaming Lips appearing in and providing the soundtrack for Hyundai’s “Epic Playdate” ad was cool, but the clincher was after the montage of extreme activities showing a day filled with frivolity the youngest child asks, “Dad, what are we going to do tomorrow?” Moms, dads and kids everywhere bobbed their heads to the music and nodded their heads in agreement throughout this commercial.

2. All parents will likely agree that Hyundai knocked it out of the park for our demographic this year. Another favorite ad was “Team”, in which a mom provides car service for a team that will stand up to the bullies that hogged a football.

3. Speaking of car service, parents of teenagers were simultaneously rooting for the underdog who gets a kiss from the queen of the dance while cringing at the thought of their teenager taking Dad’s Audi for an adrenaline-fueled spin afterwards. The marketing side of me also loved that Audi added a link to the song, “Can’t Win Em All” by Hanni El Khatib.

4. Kia’s modern-day take on a virtual, space-age stork delivering babies around the world was a little over the top. Our favorite part was the kid activating the B.S. meter at the end, and the parents instructing the car to quickly change the subject.

Slight aside… another Kia favorite from before the Super Bowl:

5. I don’t have daughters, but I can see how a dad can reach this point, Doritos or no Doritos:

6. I made a very similar milk run on Saturday morning:

7. Toyota taught us to be careful what you wish for, but that does not stop me from wishing Toyota had linked to “I Wish” by Skee Lo that plays near the end of this ad (Was that song really from 1995? That seems like just yesterday). The good news for you is that Commuter Daddy is a full-service operation. “I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller….”

8. This Volkswagen favorite is more from our professional than our parental side. “Respect Boss Mahn!”

9. A glimpse of Super Bowl Sundays of our future from Taco Bell:

All the news that fits — and the blogger too

Spied via Mediabistro’s Facebook feed, who found it on Engadget: The ultimate bloggermobile. My VW is worried.

The “bufalino” contains bedding, refrigerator, cooktop, basin, water tank, and storage bins. The back doors can even function as a clothesline — especially handy for beverage mishaps.

A commode is apparently not an option, but road warriors are used to having to pull over for nature’s call, so I don’t see that as a deal breaker. Plus pulling over and moving around helps stave off thrombosis.

There was no such thing as blogging when I drove cross-country from California to Massachusetts after college, but I still could have used a vehicle like this. I didn’t have enough money for a hotel room at every stopping point, so there was at least one night somewhere near Flagstaff that I slept in the front seat while parked at a Denny’s. My Isuzu Trooper was so tightly packed that I could not recline the seat. The bufalino bed looks quite comfortable in contrast to that memory.

Still, the VW is safe. With the rear seat folded down, I can fit my bike and my golf clubs in the back. Not sure that would be the case in the bufalino. A bike rack might make that thing pop wheelies.

Dear, Chrysler: Give me gadgets with my Man Van. Hold the stitching.

You would think that with a self-appointed brand like Commuter Daddy, I’d be a car guy. I’m afraid you’d be disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate fine automobiles. During my last round of car shopping, I was in the market for Mini Coopers and Audi A4s before settling into my more practical Volkswagen Passat.

I also have a long-held wish to head to Santa Cruz for Woodies on the Wharf. Earlier this year I took our youngest two boys and a one of their friends to check out a Tesla Roadster that was visiting The Brown Jug. We also attend at least a couple of classic car shows per year at Heritage Museum and Gardens and at Upper Cape Tech.

I don’t pay much attention to the actual mechanics of our vehicles, though. Yes, I buy new tires every 50,000 miles and I get an oil change every 3 months or so, but that’s the extent of my acknowledgment of a car’s needs. I changed the oil myself once. Have you tried to crawl under a car on a shell driveway? I’m sure there’s a few ways to properly and comfortably do it. My better way is to take the car to Sandwich Service Center up the street and walk home while I let the neighbors handle it.

Some deeper insight into my automotive naivete via word association. When you say torque, I think of the French chef’s hat. When you say gear ratio, I think I should shift up while cycling on a descent or with the wind at my back. When you say high octane gas, I think about our boys after dinner.

Nevertheless, when I read last week that Chrysler was ready to unleash a man van upon us, I was intrigued. It reportedly has a sportier look, inside and out, but the details were otherwise relatively thin.

Fancy stitching? No, thanks. Leather seat belts? Kinky, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Sure, extra horsepower and some fancy cosmetic features are nice, but what I really want is the ultimate road warrior vehicle. I need gadgets, and I’m not just talking some Bluetooth connectivity — although there is no doubt that should be a standard feature.

Here’s what should be included in my Man Van:

  • Wood panels. See my desire expressed earlier regarding Woodies on the Wharf? Men always want to be sporting some wood.
  • Shock absorbing coolers in the armrest. As I can personally attest, no man wants to arrive at his destination with a giant wet spot on his trousers.
  • In-car wi-fi. When I first read about some in-car wi-fi devices that were coming out, I wondered how useful they would be. Never mind issues with texting and driving. Can you imagine the mayhem on the roadways if businesspeople could fire up their laptops while on their commute? Then, I started traveling a couple of times a month, while working from the home office much of the rest of the time. I suddenly appreciated the value of having an alternate wi-fi source. The picture at the top of this post shows a recent example when in-car wi-fi would have been immensely beneficial. My Verizon-powered Blackberry modem needed more power, Scotty. There was not enough bandwidth for me to run the Web conference portion of a conference call I was hosting. Luckily, one of my colleagues was on the call, so I handed off my host password, while driving like hell a little over the speed limit to find the nearest library with wi-fi. Chrysler, if you want me to consider buying a Man Van, give me wi-fi. The kids will thank you too, especially if they can be entertained via my wi-fi-enabled iPad on long road trips.
  • Coffee maker. One less pitstop would make this extreme commuter much more efficient with his time. I’d suggest some sort of bathroom-like capabilities, too, but I assume I would still have to stop the car to utilize them. No real time to be gained by adding a toilet.
  • Autopilot. Speaking of efficient use of time, when I get sleepy on the road, why rely on coffee at all? Make it for highway use only, and integrate the autopilot with the GPS navigation system. Set the course for your next exit, and when you get there an alarm will sound, waking you from your catnap. Cruise control is so old-school. It’s time for an upgrade.
  • Incinerator. If you want to offer a Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor to power deluxe models only, fantastic, but I absolutely need a standard device that rids the vehicle of spent snack wrappers, straws and napkins. My door pockets are forever getting crammed with trash, and much as I try to keep up by utilizing the garbage bins at gas stations, it always seems to be a needless cycle of messiness.
  • iPod/iPhone dock. Charge it, play my podcasts and music, and give me control through the steering wheel. No more auxiliary cables, FM broadcast accessories or tape-deck adapters, please. An option to modify for the iPad would be a nice future enhancement, too.
  • Interior bike rack. How about a Renniks Bicycle Tote? A dry bike makes for a happy cyclist, and a healthier commuter.
  • Crock pot and/or breadmaker. If you’re going to cook in the car, why make it difficult with all the aluminum foil and trial and error with finding the right spot in the engine block to cook the meal? Let’s be more deliberate and provide a device for commuters who would like to eat less fast food and more home cooking. Give the road warriors back their time with the proper in-car device that would allow us to put dinner on the table as soon as we reach home while also being more efficient with the energy our cars are generating. There’s got to be a carbon-neutral justification somewhere in this idea.

I can’t have cornered the market on good Man Van ideas, especially given that all of these cater to my interests, hobbies and lifestyle. How would you equip your Man Van?

Contents under pressure

Originally uploaded by spolay

On the outside, my Saturn — complete with its tricked-out, ACK-emblemed bumper — is in decent shape. Sure, there’s a slight ding in the rear bumper from when a Jeep skidded into me after I stopped short on a wet New York road two years ago. All in all, though, it has held up pretty well after 5 1/2 years and 161,000-plus miles of interstate commuting.

The inside, though, is another matter.

I’m not sure why, but I never bought floor mats, so the carpets are a wreck, especially when you combine Northeast winters with the kids and I tracking in mud from the soccer fields and crushed shells from our driveway.

The real problem, though, are drink spills, and those stains are not limited to my carpets. I’ve had co-workers look at my blotchy cloth seats, and wonder whether their clothes are safe.

It’s reached the point that if I know I’m going to be ferrying colleagues on the road, I borrow Brandy’s Toyota Highlander and its leather seats. It’s the family car and takes its own beating, but those seats have sustained the kids’ and my punishment much better than my Saturn.

If I don’t have the Highlander at my disposal, I’ll employ reverse politeness:

  • “Would you mind driving? My car is a mess.”
  • “Can someone drive? I’ve got child safety seats in the back, and I can’t fit everyone.”
  • “You drive. I’ll navigate.”

The last two days have been no exception to drinks meeting their demise on my automotive interior. Yesterday, while returning home from Lookout Farm, Benjamin wanted a sip of his Gatorade. We were stopped at the time, so I dared to open the bottle and let him sip without a straw. No mishaps occurred at that point in the process. The truly foolish thing I did was jump back in the driver seat, and start the car. Benjamin’s sip was a quick one, so he tried to hand me back the bottle, spilling some Gatorade on himself in the process.

I reached back for the bottle, and in the process finished the job by not maintaining the bottle’s equilibrium and dumping some more on the seat, floor, and bag of apples we’d purchased at the farm.

Worse? I had no napkins in the glove compartment. I pulled a tissue — unused, I believe — from my pocket, and did my best to dry Ben’s arm. No such dignity for the Saturn, though. The carpets and seats were forced to air dry on the way home.

Barely 18 hours later, I was on the road again, headed to New York, when after two cups of coffee I decided to forego a third and instead open a Poland Spring orange seltzer I had brought along.

I hadn’t thought the ride had been too bumpy, but I guess storing the bottle upside down didn’t help. The next thing I knew, I was wearing some seltzer, but my seat got the worst of it. Still no napkins in the glove compartment, so I had to drive with the windows down and the vents blowing in fresh air so at the very least my pants would dry by the time I disembarked at the corporate office an hour later.

As I pondered my liquid klutziness, a warning on the seltzer bottle caught my eye:

“Contents under pressure. Open slowly. Away from face.”

Please add, “Away from car seat.”

In addition to having missed my face with the cap and the liquid, the other silver lining was I don’t think the seltzer will stain. For all I know, it might actually help remove the existing blotches.

One thing about which I am certain: I will listen to Brandy’s seat advice when I zero in on my next car. Whatever replaces the Saturn will have leather seats.

You know it’s time for a new car when…

  1. Co-workers eye the coffee stains on your passenger seat very suspiciously before sitting down.
  2. You’re driving through a deluge, when all of a sudden you notice a steady stream of water hitting your clutch leg under the dash.
  3. You’re driving through a snow storm, and your windshield wiper fluid fails to spritz the windshield. You make it to the next rest area to buy a fluid refill, realizing you have no alternative but to pay the gouged more than doubled seasonal price. You attempt to pop the hood, only to discover the handle has detached from the car. Once you finally manage to reattach the handle and pop the hood, you learn that the windshield wiper fluid actually had been topped off when you took the car in for an oil change and new tires a week ago, and the real problem is somewhere in the lines from the tank to the windshield. After closing the hood and using a squeegie to clean the windshield You then must resign yourself to using road spooge as the only means of getting a clear view of the road for the next 150 miles.
  4. Your driver’s side power window will not go down, and you must open the driver’s side door to even place an order in the fast-food drive-through, much less retrieve it from the bewildered clerk.
  5. You have to tap the console to get all of the lights behind the speedomoter and odometer to come on. In fact, it has become such habit that your 10-year-old son does it for you when he is in the passenger seat.

Cars with wifi

Amen to Dave Winer, who ponders wifi-enabled cars. I would take it a step further, though. I want a car that like my Verizon-powered Blackberry or a phone-company issued wireless card, can jump on a network and do its thing almost wherever you are.

As some know, I am prone to typing on my Blackberry while driving (do not try this on your commute!), so I in effect have the capability Dave craves — though my Blackberry and my car stereo are not connected. But I would so love the ability to pull over to the side of the road during an important conference call, fire up my in-dash laptop, and voila, be connected.

Somewhat related: I went through quite an adventure Monday, when my Comcast connection was on the fritz (for those following the saga via my Tweets, it turns out it was legitimately down, thanks to a fried wire outside… I am now very grateful to the Comcast fix-it-man for his visit yesterday).

I first tried the free wifi at the Dan’l Webster Inn. Great connection, but sitting in the lobby between the front desk and the restaurant was not optimum for the many conference calls I had to attend. The speaker above me was blaring classical music from WFCC, and the grandfather clock next to me chiming on the quarter hour.

This is actually a fairly common challenge. Whether its Panera, or Starbucks, or any other coffee shop that provides wifi — free or otherwise — it’s hard to find a quiet spot from which you not only can connect your computer, but also from which you can place phone calls without significant background noise that either makes it hard for call participants to hear you, or makes it difficult to concentrate even when you place your phone on mute. The car, however, is usually just fine for such circumstances, until you need to refer to something online that is referenced on the call. That’s when you need the wifi.

Back to Monday… because my Verizon Wireless signal was essentially nonexistant at DWI, I couldn’t have placed calls even if there was less noise. So I hopped in the car for a couple of calls, meanwhile driving to Mashpee Commons, where they claim to have free wifi. While I could pick up the signal pretty easily, I could not get past the SQL errors on their login page. I finally gave up, went home, and decided to focus on offline work tasks, which actually turned out to be quite a productive day.

The ultimate solution would have been to walk out to my driveway and fire up my car’s wifi. I would have had a quiet, connected space within which I could have worked. The only negative? I would have wanted to run the AC, which would have meant cranking the engine, contributing to the demise of the planet with my emissions. So the ultimate solution computer-enabled car would have to be a hybrid or biodiesel, of course.