The Super Bowl is one of the most popular sporting events on television. This year it attracted over 108 million American viewers. With such a wide viewing audience, companies try very hard and pay outrageous amounts of money (over $4 million for 30 seconds of airtime) for their commercials to be seen.
Even if the commercials don’t play in Canada, we can find them all online. We can see the heartwarming ones (like Budweiser’s The Clydesdales: “Brotherhood”), the entertaining ones (Mercedes Benz’s “Soul”) and the hilarious ones (like Taco Bell’s “Viva Young”). However, one thing that has become an alarming trend is the use of sexism and extreme sexualization to sell products.
Advertisers look for ways to make a commercial stick with viewers. If the viewer remembers the commercial, they remember the product. While time and time again companies have been able to do that without bringing inappropriate sexism into their ads, some companies push the limits.
Take for example Go Daddy, a popular web hosting company. Since it began using Danica Patrick as its spokesperson almost five years ago their commercials have consistently been very sexual in nature. Even this year their ad portrays Israeli model Bar Rafaeli making out with actor Jesse Helman. The two are used as symbols for beauty and brains, and this ad uses the nerd-lands-the-gorgeous-woman routine, portraying the woman as brainless.
An ad from Mercedes Benz also played along with a typical stereotype of women. In the ad, American model and actress Kate Upton gets a team of football players to wash her car by just standing there, tossing her hair back and posing suggestively. Not only does this ad degrade the ability of women by limiting her to such a suggestive and sexually-charged position, it also demeans the men who are willing to do anything at the sight of a pair of double Ds.
The ad for the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls was not only overtly sexual, but so completely irrelevant that many people were caught off guard. The show, starring Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs, is about two girls who are running a cupcake shop. Instead of relating aspects of their show in the commercial, CBS decided it would be easier to have the two girls showing off their exotic dancing skills on a pole.
The restaurants Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. bought some air time this year, putting out an advertisement for their new burger. And while the burger got some attention, most of the ad was focused on Danish model Nina Agdal, who ate the meal in the most sexual way possible. At the beach wearing a bikini she spent as much time applying spray-on suntan lotion as she did actually eating. She then proceeded to take her top off and dig into a second burger.
The problem with these ads is that they’ve been pushing the envelope of what is and what isn’t acceptable in advertising. It’s time to step back and really think about what commercials we should be putting on T.V..
Every year another company tries to find a way to stand out, and while the competition is understandable, organizations need to dial down the sexualization of their products.
Ironically enough, despite the extreme sexual nature of some of these commercials, one commercial was banned from airing. The commercial, from the pornographic website PornHub, shows an elderly couple sitting on a bench together. That’s it. No sex, no nudity, nothing provocative and yet still not acceptable to air.
Yes, it’s still an advertisement for a pornographic website, but as far as what kind of message it was sending out to viewers it’s tamer and less sexualized than a burger or a car. If they can attract attention without using sex, so can other advertisers.