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Sign of the times: Super Bowl ads safer and staid

 This Budweiser ad featuring a Clydesdale and a yellow Lab puppy won a popularity poll taken by USA Today.
 This Budweiser ad featuring a Clydesdale and a yellow Lab puppy won a popularity poll taken by USA Today.Anheuser-Busch

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As Super Bowl ads go, so goes America.

The A-list advertisers who aired commercial spots during Sunday’s big game steered clear of controversy while trying to appeal to weary consumers with iconic American images and family-centered topics. Those safe themes were evident in many of the ads, from Toyota’s Highlander ad featuring singing Muppets to Chrysler’s two-minute Bob Dylan spot focused on American engineering, and Bud Light’s ad, which showed Arnold Schwarzenegger playing ‘‘tiny tennis.’’

Super Bowl ads can be a bellwether for the economy because they show which companies are willing to spend $4 million on a 30-second spot.

This year, fewer websites and software companies aired ads compared to the past four years and more ads appeared from packaged food and luxury auto makers.

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