The Super Bowl ads are big business. Advertisers spent close to $4 million for each half-minute chance to catch our attention, and cleverly used social media to develop significant advance publicity by creating teaser ads. This was rewarded with news coverage that reached audiences far beyond football enthusiasts.
This attention means that we should be attentive to the subtle and not-so-subtle messages they convey to young girls and young men. These television commercials are created to entertain nearly 120 million viewers. It is exactly this reach and influence that should cause us to consider their real-world impacts. This includes the connection between how we view women when we seek to be entertained and how we view women when we arrive at school or in the workplace the next morning. It also affects how we view dads as role models at home.
The messages conveyed in these ads reinforce the conscious and unconscious biases that continue to keep women from reaching the top leadership positions in corporations, law firms, and academic institutions. Women are responsible for more than 85 percent of household decisions regarding how family consumer dollars are spent, yet constitute less than 15 percent of the membership of corporate boards which produce the products. And, ironically, women constitute even a smaller percentage of ad agency creative directors.
The top offenders during the commercial breaks for Super Bowl XLVII offered an array of women as fantasy objects, varying degrees of violence, and juvenile men of all ages. In a competitive field, here are three of the most offensive:
1. GoDaddy posed supermodel Bar Rafaeli sitting idly while character actor Jesse Heiman hunched over his computer, doing man’s work. Spokeswoman Danica Patrick, who has experienced more than her share of men questioning her abilities as a race car driver, stood passively, stating that when sexy meets smart, it creates a perfect combination. Heiman and Rafaeli then shared a noisy, close-up kiss while the screen read: “When sexy meets smart, your small business scores.” Huh?
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