violent and sexy super bowl ads
I’m not much of a football fan, I couldn’t tell you about any of the seasons story lines, and you’re going to have to tell me who’s good and who’s not. Nevertheless since 2006 my wife and I have made it a tradition to watch the Super Bowl together. The first three years we enjoyed the game at home before a bounty of buffalo wings, seven layer bean dips and shrimp wheels that we could never finish alone. Then we canceled cable and never got a converter, and so the last two years we resulted to parties.
Because I really don’t care much about the game, I like many others pay special attention to the commercials. It was in the second year of watching the Super Bowl together that my wife and I began to keep track of violent commercials. The question of how many didn’t just pop into our heads but rather we simply noticed an abundance of violent commercials. We began to keep a tally and we’re always surprised by the number of violent commercials over… well, that’s the thing, they seem to fit into two categories: violent or sexual. Last years big hit, the Volkswagen Darth Vader was one of the few exceptions.
This year I’m going to be publishing the results, and for the first time I’ll be counting both violent and sexual. Here’s how it works. Movie trailers or commercials for television shows don’t count, though they always tend to be violent the violence is usually related to a plot line. Buying a Ford pickup is not a cause for a kick to the groin. It’s largely subjective on my part, and another person might disagree with my decision, but if you want to take your own informal tally be my guest. Keeping track of the sexual commercials is new, so here is what I’ll be looking for, suggestive or blatant objectification, and scantily clad people.
I have a confession to make. I wrote the above at 11:00 am the day of the Super Bowl, I am writing this lower portion at 9:30 pm after the Super Bowl. In my mind I had a whole article written, I was going to make some (perhaps ridiculous) connections between Football demographics, sex/violence, and a game where people knock people to the ground for a living. But writing that article now would be akin to writing an article congratulating the Patriots on their Super Bowl victory. Before I reveal the results let me remind you that my wife and I began keeping track not because we like making tally marks but because every year the number of violent commercials is staggering, we’re talking a lot. Even one’s that started benign usually ended with a slap in the face or a guy getting thrown through an office window.
I counted 61 commercials total. This doesn’t include movie trailers or NBC and NFL promotions.
2 both violent and sexual
That’s it! Everyone at the party kept looking at me like I was crazy. These commercials weren’t overtly violent or sexual, even Godaddy.com who usually has the most offensively sexual ads, was tame. If anything I should have been keeping track of Car ads, yes America still makes cars, and those American cars are made in Michigan factories. Cars, beer, and cute and cuddly, that’s what I got.
Even those that were violent or sexual would have been considered tame in past years. An early car commercial that featured a Cheetah attacking a man was the most violent, and the Fiat ad that featured a guy and a model feeding him whipped cream was the most sexual. Not only were the sexual and violent ads missing but there was nothing really controversial, nothing that even made me cringe.
So what happened this year? I could hypothesize that sex and violence don’t sell, but that’s not true. Sex and violence totally sell, slapstick and bikini girls could sell anything. This year advertisers made a dramatic shift from the previous six years. Our friend Matt had a good point, companies decided to rely on sure things like, cute animals doing cute things and inexcusable overbearing patriotism. My theory had to do with companies shying away from anything controversial.
Last year it was Groupon who generated the most controversy with some truly awful commercials. There were also some equally cringe worthy ones that made me wonder how they thought this would be okay. Before that it was Kim Kardashian hocking Skechers and before that it was the robot who committed suicide. This year the commercial with the biggest controversy was a Skechers ad featuring dog race and a French Bulldog in red shoes. I didn’t know this was a controversy until the internet told me so. I suspect that companies decided that while edgy and controversial commercials can bring you a lot of attention, not all attention is good. For many, Groupon’s insensitive and racist commercials lost them customers possibly for good. When spending millions of dollars for just 30 seconds of ad time everyone wanted to make a positive impression.
I hate to admit it, this years Super Bowl commercials were just bland. Nothing was very memorable. I thought I was a crusader for more commercials like the Volkswagen Darth Vader ad but as it turns out, without the violence, sex, and controversy it just becomes a million commercial breaks of blah. I suspect that everyone chose to play it safe this year and not throw bags full of money away on ads that lose customers. That said, next year I’m expecting a return to the violence and the colorful cringeworthy past, at least I hope so.