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.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  J P:

We didn't have the opportunity to watch the super bowl this year and am grateful not to have had to wade through the trash that fills the commercials as my children absorb it. A laugh or three or ten are for sure not worth the influence they have on our children and their future choices and lives.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Bob:

When it came to commercials, I tried to enjoy them. I did my absolute best. But I still wasn't impressed by the Go Daddy Go commercial. I had no idea what they were selling, and still don't know. All I know is that there is some naked chick on the web that I can see if I go to their website. The only real newsflash was the website address. Anyway, I enjoyed the Doritos commercials and the Chevy commercials. The Fiat one I laughed at, but I didn't look at the scantly clad women. The M&M one I didn't hear much so I just heard her say "My shell is brown" and watched the red M&M take off his shell and start dancing (which I'll admit to laughing at). I never watched the video or heard the song. Other than those glitches, the commercials were funny. Especially the Apocolyptic proof car.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  AndStuff:

I also liked the Ferris Bueller commercial, don't have any clue what they were selling though.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  AndStuff:

I thought the Coca-Cola polar bears were absolutely adorable! I also thought the apocalypse car was funny until they talked about the one guy that didn't make it, it was sad after that. The slingshot baby Doritos was funny. The vampire one was kind of funny.  The dog fetching the beer was cute, and the ones that did the history of their beer (Budweiser?) actually I thought those were good commercials, and I think beer tastes bad. Didn't care to much for the halftime show.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Charger:

It was a Kia commercial. Weridly one of my favorate this year. I saw the womans dream and knew that the guys dream was going to be full of sexual images, but then when it got to end I was surprised and kind of happy on where the commercial went. Thank goodness we had some dads at our Super Bowl party, when the Go Daddy, Fiat, Teleflora and David Beckham commercials came up they would not just sit there and watch them, they would do something about it. I was laughing at the Audi vampire one even after it had ended. The M&M one left a bad taste in my mouth. (I was eating one at the same time, did'nt eat any more that night.) All the dog commercials were hilarious! The VW one, albeit not as funny as last year, (The little kid Darth Vader, the most cutest commercial ever!) was good. The car commercials were funny to. I saw most of the half time show because I laughing to much to see it. I am most likly going to go see almost all of the movies shown, they looked good. But then again the trailers only show what the editors what you to see, not the problematic content. So we shall see what Plugged has to say about them.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Lisbeth:

My favorite commercial was the Audi vampire commercial and how it poked fun at the Twilight franchise (i.e. the vampires running up the tree).  The Doritos commercials with the "missing cat" and the slingshot baby were pretty funny too.  I also liked the Sketchers dog commercial as well, mainly because I love dogs and start, "Awww"ing involuntarily whenever I see one.  When I saw the David Beckham underwear commercial, I started laughing hysterically because of how ridiculous the premise of David Beckham underwear is.  Of course, people will swoon over his "hotness" and buy it. Personally, I can name 6 men hotter (and worth more peoples' time) than David Beckham.  While I love M&M's, their commercial was just plain awkward.  In terms of the movie commercials, I liked the Avengers one.  The Teleflora commerical made me and the other girls watching the game with me so angry because we found it kind of sexist.  Come on guys, there are more (and better) ways to spend Valentine's Day than getting hot and heavy with your girlfriend in the bedroom.  I really enjoyed the halftime show but am still angry at MIA for ruining part of it by flipping the bird at the cameras.  We all sang along to the Madonna songs that we knew the words to (Thank you, Glee).  Other than that, we enjoyed the game, ripped our hair out for the last 60 seconds, then screamed hysterically with joy when the Giants won.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Eh:

Didn't mind the commercials at all. If anything could be said about them it's that they weren't as funny as last year.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  YetAnotherTeen:

I happened to see them, and actually enjoyed a few more than I thought I might. All those you guys mentioned, plus the above-mentioned underwear commercial and an extreme excess of Budweiser commercials (at least eight by my count) were greatly annoying, the rest varied as has been mentioned. Favorite, I liked the car commerical where the guy gets a "massively good dream" where he drives his fancy guy and tosses up boxing, huge sandwiches, and bikini-clad girls to smash his car into his wife's dream and get her back from the fancy guy on the horse so they can ride into the sunset.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Danicka:

Fortunately, I missed most of the commercials that you mentioned, thanks to a careful chaperone at our youth group SuperBowl party! But one commercial that really bothered me was the H&M ad featuring a near-naked male model sporting a new underwear line. At least that's what I think that's what it was for. It seemed to me that they were targeting women in the same way Victoria's Secret ads would target men. It didn't make sense to me, and it really grossed me out! It's hard for me as a true chocolate-lover to turn down M&M's based on one commercial, but I certainly have no interest in shopping at H&M anytime soon!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Patricia:

Since we don't have cable, we hooked a laptop up to the TV and watched the NBC streaming of the game, which meant, sadly, we didn't get the regular commercials mixed in.  Instead, we saw the same 3 commercials during every break (apparently real Navy Seals are starring in a combat movie of real combat footage, and Dwight from the Office repeatedly recommended we click on him to see the Chevy superbowl commercials).  Additionally, NBC didn't stream the entertainment portion of the halftime show online, so we missed that too.  We were mighty glad the game was available online, but we just couldn't help wondering why we got such a 2nd rate version...

Anyway, commercials were available in a side-bar after the game.  Our 'party' consisted of several couples in their late 20s-early 30s and an older couple.  Nobody got the GoDaddy commercials - they were not clever or creative and generated little more than "uuhh... oh...kay...?" from the group. 

The two that stood out for us were Wego the Rescue Dog, fetcher of beer (though I don't remember the brand they were selling), and the Audi commercial with the friendly vampires (we watched it twice!).  There was also a Dorito commercial with a gangster dog that we laughed at heartily.  The rest were pretty ho-hum.