A couple days before the Super Bowl I saw a news special about the advertisements which would be aired during the game. One of the commentators said for many years after the Super Bowl was first televised in 1967, the ads were targeted at a ‘male only’ audience. Now advertisers realize the Super Bowl has become a cultural event and has many women in its television audience. In 2008 for example, 97.5 million people watched the Super Bowl. 45.8 million of those viewers were males over 18, but 37.7 million were females over 18. Advertisers who are paying a cool 3.3 million dollars for 30 seconds of airtime during the game are apparently considering their female audience carefully when crafting their ads.
I decided this year as I was watching the Super Bowl ads I would think specifically about how women might view them. As a woman I was not at all impressed with the Teleflora Ad.
A gorgeous super model is getting ready for a date, seductively dressing as the camera slides over her body. On her dressing table is a bouquet of flowers. The ad ends with the woman saying in a sultry tone, “Guys. Valentine’s Day isn’t that complicated. Give and you shall receive.” The implication is that women’s sexual favors can be easily bought. Give a woman gifts, in this case flowers, and you’ll get into her bed. I don’t think most women will appreciate being portrayed as someone of easy virtue whose affections will be won not by a man who is intelligent, honest or even physically attractive, but by one who has money. This ad suggested women are prostitutes, sexual partners whose attentions can be bought and paid for.
I liked the feisty older woman in the Doritos Ad. A grandmother slingshots her baby grandchild over to a tree house to snatch a bag of Doritos from a taunting older boy who is being a bit of a bully. Here was a strong woman who was not going to let her age or even the fact that she was in a wheel chair interfere with her getting what she wanted and she used someone as seemingly vulnerable and weak as herself, her infant grandchild, to help her. This ad was corny and not very realistic but I liked the fact that the woman was empowered, took matters into her own hands and didn’t need a man to get what she felt was hers. This ad was apparently rated one of the top five 2012 Super Bowl commercials.
The H &M ad featuring soccer star David Beckham’s nearly nude physique was clearly targeted at women. The camera pans Beckham’s body and we see all of his tattoos including one that says Romeo and the Chinese characters for the proverb-“Death and life have pre-determined appointments; riches and honor are from heaven”. We also see David’s wedding ring. The music in the background is “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by the Animals. The ad is selling a line of Beckham underwear. I felt this ad sent mixed messages. On the one hand the visual part of this ad implied women will be attracted to a man simply because of his physical beauty and the music suggests that women should feel sorry for men because they are poor misunderstood creatures. On the other hand this very attractive man is subtly being portrayed not as a playboy but a father (Romeo – the word on one of his tattoos is the name of one of his children) husband(we see his wedding ring) and someone who has a humble spiritual world view which attributes his success not to his own efforts but the blessings of a divine entity. (note the Chinese proverb.)
In the Oikos Yogurt ad the woman is strong and gets what she wants. Well- known actor John Stamos is being fed yogurt by his female partner. However when it is his turn to give her a spoonful of yogurt he repeatedly teases her- putting the spoon up to her mouth and then jerking it away and eating the yogurt himself. Finally she’s had enough and head butts him to the floor and when he tries for a comeback she glares at him and he falls back down. I liked this woman. No man is going to get the better of her! However as a pacifist I’m not sure I can applaud the fact that she used physical force to get what she wanted. Was this male abuse?
Another example of a female who is a winner is the Century 21 saleswoman in the commercial titled Smarter, Bolder, Faster. In the ad a young savvy female Century 21 real estate broker gets the better of business tycoon Donald Trump, former professional football and baseball player Deion Sanders and Apolo Ohno, a short track speed skater who has won eight Olympic medals. This was a great ad! A woman uses her intelligence, determination and perseverance to triumph over three men.
That’s a woman’s reaction to a few of the Super Bowl Ads. What next? An article I saw called Kids and the Super Bowl made me want to re-watch many of the ads and look for what message they were sending children. I wondered if any of the ads played to the viewer’s social conscience. What political messages did the ads send? A person could write a book about the Super Bowl ads.