Super Bowl Ads a Contrast of Culture

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Super Bowl Ads a Contrast of Culture

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For good or bad, advertisements are a reflection and extension of the culture.


So, what did the commercials during last night’s Super Bowl communicate?


Just two observations:


1.  The most popular ads lifted up noble ideals:  Charles Revson was the founder of Revlon cosmetics. He once reflected that his company may make lipstick in a factory – but it is hope that they sell in the drugstores. Super Bowl XLVII’s highest scoring spots struck a similar hope-filled chord:

  • A trainer and his horse were reunited (Anheuser-Busch)
  • Hard-working farmers were lauded and honored (Dodge)
  • The sacrifices and demands facing military families were recognized (Jeep)
  • The everyday challenges of parent-child communication were noted(Kia)



2.   Calm and quiet beat chaotic and loud: Two of the highest-scoring ads were among the most quiet. The laconic and gentlemanly voice of the late Paul Harvey filled the screen, silhouetted only by snapshots of the modest Midwest and its people. Oprah Winfrey’s poignant military tribute was buttressed by a sweeping but simple soundtrack that moved viewers to tears as we watched children and their parents.


On the whole there was all too much crassness for parents, especially of young children, to cringe at, of course. Sexual innuendo seemed to find its way into almost every other spot. Violent imagery and derogatory humor were also unfortunate and all too common characteristics in this year’s ads.


Navigating this coarse landscape leaves one to shake one’s head as to why a Focus on the Family Super Bowl commercial celebrating life a couple of years ago was deemed controversial – but a spot laced with overt sexual overtones is not.


We know the answer to that somewhat rhetorical question, of course. Culture is fluid and always warring with the ideals of Christianity, especially now as our society quickens its march toward greater secularization. But in the midst of it all, the business behind last night’s game should serve to remind Christians of two main things directly related to my two earlier observations:


  1.  1. The darkness will never overcome the light. There is ultimate hope to be had in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ”This is the verdict,” wrote John, “light has come into the world” (John 3:19).


2. If you want to make a difference, if you want to stand out, you need not go along with the flow and try and mimic the culture. Ironically, the louder and more coarse the culture becomes, the more distinct and sweeter will the Gospel of Jesus Christ appear in contrast.


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  • It was deemed controversial because the abortion debate is still a hot topic, that many feel very strongly about, while sexuality has been embraced in our culture.

  • I'd rather see an ad with playful sexuality than with some pious footballer pushing an anti-choice agenda.  

  • Double standards...It's ok for the secular media to broadcast sex or the sensual, but it's not ok to broadcast Christ or christian values.

  • Sexuality isn't controversial.

    Abortion is.

    Sex is normal.

    Abortion isn't.

    Hot topics will always be taboo.

  • When commercial agencies try to come up with ads that get people excited about a product, they'll often use images that are shocking, silly, or controversial. Some companies use the idea of "american values" to sell their ads, but some (taco bell or go daddy for example) would seem silly if they used the same approach as Dodge's Paul Harvey ad. They use humor and crassness because that's what gets people's attention- and getting people's attention is of the utmost importance when you're spending 4 million dollars to air your aid. It's how capitalism has always worked- at the end of the day, you want to see the highest possible return on your investment.

  • To 4:31pm:  actually, abortion is pretty normal; about a million American women a year choose it.