What was life like before Alexa? According to Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, and Amazon’s Super Bowl ad, it was a sad place full of dragons, jug bands, unfunny court jesters, Richard Nixon and ‘fake news.’
“Alexa, turn down the thermostat,” Ellen DeGeneres says at the start of Amazon’s Super Bowl LIV commercial. As she and her wife, Portia de Rossi, head out, Ellen asks, “what do you think people did before Alexa?” Cue a montage of people asking Alexa – or, variants of the name ranging from Alexine to Alessa to Alicia to Alex to Alexi – throughout time to do tasks that Amazon’s Alexa now does. Telling jokes, playing songs, telling interesting facts – you name it. From newsboys in the industrial revolution denouncing “fake news” to dragons(?) intercepting messages to President Nixon’s assistant not deleting the tapes that would lead to his near-impeachment, the world was a much different place before Amazon’s voice-controlled assistant.
“Yeah, I don’t know what people did before Alexa,” the 47-year-old Portia told her 62-year-old wife, ignoring the fact that both she and Ellen were born well before cell phones, the Internet, Bluetooth wireless headphones, mp3s, HD television, and Amazon itself was created. However, the commercial – thought utterly ridiculous – is cute, especially when it ends by revealing Ellen’s favorite song. Turns out she’s a huge 2004-era Usher fan. Who knew?
In fact, Ellen’s “favorite song” came out before Alexa was a thing. Amazon’s voice-controlled assistant was first used in the Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers, which debuted in 2014. But, Super Bowl commercials aren’t about being accurate but about being fun. In a blog post about the Super Bowl 54 sport, Amazon encouraged its consumers to ask, “Alexa, what did we do before you?” and to vote for their favorite ads on USA Today’s Ad Meter. Coincidentally, Amazon’s star-studded “Alexa Loses Her Voice” spot was ranked #1 on USA Today’s Ad Meter in 2018, according to AdWeek, who noted that its Super Bowl rank dropped to #2 last year.
In addition to Ellen and Portia, the ad features actor Jamie Demetriou, best known for his role as Bus Rodent on the lauded Amazon series Fleabag. When Adweek asked if there were any other cameos worth noting, an Amazon spokesperson said the ad “features celebrity couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi.” Teams at Amazon and Droga5 London created the 2020 ad. No word if they asked Alexa for any help in making it.