Super Bowl Ads: What Were They Selling?


watching tv.JPGWith the Denver Broncos eliminated from the NFL playoffs several weeks ago, I have to admit I had no “dog in the fight” when it came to this past weekend’s Super Bowl. That said, like a billion other people on this planet, I watched it anyway. Chock it up to a case of global media pressure. Who said those of us at Plugged In are exempt?!

So when Tom Brady reared back and flung his Hail Mary pass into the end zone as time expired, I was unmoved. If the ball had been caught, that was just fine with me. When the pigskin slid out of the end zone, I was just as content. Still, congrats to Eli Manning and the Giants.

My wife became somewhat of a football fan this year, when Tim Tebow was bringing the Broncos victory after improbable victory. Like it was for me, the Super Bowl was more background noise as she did some baking. But some of the commercials caught her attention—and not in a good way.

“I’m sure glad our kids are older because I would really be concerned about the messages of several of these Super Bowl commercials if they were young and we had just watched the game with them,” she told me. (Both of our kids are in their twenties now.)

Now, I rarely watch a TV commercial. I’m an adamant, faithful user of the DVR. For the most part, I record what I want to watch and I watch it when I want to watch it, not when it airs. I fast forward through commercials 98 percent of the time. And when watching a sporting event, I fast-forward through halftime, too. I’m such a DVR fanatic that when I speak publicly on media discernment, I encourage my listeners to use them. Sometimes the commercials are the most objectionable part of a television show, and there’s no better way to eliminate those problematic spots.

But the Super Bowl is different. Because companies pay $3.5 million for a mere 30 ticks of the clock, I make an exception and watch the commercials … and even the halftime show.

Space here doesn’t permit for me to give exhaustive feedback. But let’s start with the Go Daddy ads. First I should confess that I had no idea what this company sold until someone told me. From the commercials, I could have concluded they peddled porn. Even from a pragmatic approach, one has to ask, is that good advertising? I think not! Far worse, though, is what this commercial teaches young girls—that their value (or lack thereof) is rooted in their ability to shed clothes and get males to drool. My wife and I, when we discussed the commercial, agreed that that’s pretty sad.

But Go Daddy wasn’t the only offender on Sunday. What was up with that sensual Fiat commercial? Seeing the car is akin to a sexual fantasy?! And don’t get me started with the M&M ad, in which one of ’em strips off his hard candy shell and starts dancing provocatively to an LMFAO song. If anyone had seen the video for the song, the spot would’ve felt even more objectionable.

You can count me out as a purchaser of M&Ms, Fiats and domain names through Go Daddy. But what were our little boys and girls “buying” this past Sunday? I submit maybe some lies about self-worth, sexuality, and what matters in life. If you watched the game with your children, maybe talking through some of these commercials can become a retroactive teachable moment.

Granted, not all the ads were bad. Some were funny. Some were dull. And some were downright inspiring.

I’m curious: What are your thoughts on the commercials? And, while we’re at it, what did you think of the halftime show?

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.