Apparently, the humor was too blue.
Cure Auto Insurance said Thursday that NBC pulled its Super Bowl ads over a joke about "blue balls."
The spots were set to air in the New York and Philadelphia markets leading into halftime of Sunday's big game. Eric Poe, Cure's chief operating officer, told The Huffington Post that local affiliates of the network had approved the commercials. But on Thursday, the network's standards department intervened.
The Princeton, New Jersey-based company's mascot is a talking blue ball, but the punch line didn't end there in the two banned spots.
As seen above, the mascot introduces the first commercial with a "Deflategate" reference, noting that the New England quarterback's balls were under-inflated in the team's last game. "At least they weren't blue," the smart-aleck orb cracks. "I mean, that may have stolen my spotlight." Then a #NoMoreBlueBalls hashtag appears.
The companion ad, which was to air during the same break, apologizes for the hashtag and cheekily replaces it with "#CureForBlueBalls."
Poe, who came up with the concept for the ads, said network officials told him they were apprehensive about parents having to explain "blue balls" to children.
"We felt that the mere fact that our mascot was truly a blue ball should make it an easy way to explain to a child," Poe said. "Unfortunately, they weren't persuaded, so we had to scramble under short notice to rack our creative brains in order to work around their objections. We have a new script that I feel may actually be even funnier that we have submitted to them tonight and hope someone at the network will have the 'balls' to allow us to air that spot."
The insurance company is paying $500,000 for the broadcast time, and had spent $50,000 on production of the first ads, Poe explained.
A rep for NBC Sports told HuffPost that Cure Auto Insurance is "not a national buyer, so if someone [pulled the spots], it wasn't us."
Last year for the Super Bowl, the insurer's ads riffed on Richard Sherman's rant and Peyton Manning's "Omaha" call. Those spots aired.
UPDATE: Cure Auto Insurance reworked the ads and got them approved, Poe said Saturday. Here are the new versions that will air during the Super Bowl: