Tuesday, February 7, 2012

No Shock and No Awe in Super Bowl 2012 Ads

C’Mon Now …..

“Super Bowl Ads yield no shock and little awe”

By J. Anthony Snorgrass, PhD

Ad Age depicted Super Bowl advertisers as ‘weak in the knees’ as they pre-released their spots and traded surprise and delight for social media buzz in the form of twitter mentions, YouTube streams, and Facebook likes. Is this really the new advertising metric? Old school marketers (and former Super Bowl ad icons) unveiled their spots during the game in the hope that they would be talked about not just post-game, but for weeks, months and years after – recall Apple’s 1984 ‘Think Different’, or ‘Mean Joe Green’ by Coke, Bud Light’s ‘What’s Up?’, the original Go Daddy ‘Senate Hearing’ or even the Old Spice guy ‘Look @ me’, just to mention a few. These ads had legs, a euphemism meaning they possessed the ability to endure over time and across varied executions and mediums.

This apparently isn’t important anymore as experiential marketing that focused upon a holistic experience has given way to more short-term payoffs of tweets, likes, and viral streams. The Internet has promulgated this hyper- present rule, where the prevalence of ‘we want it now’ thinking is only trumped by ‘we want it RIGHT now’…. and advertisers have given it to us!

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly understand and appreciate the power of “sex” as an appeal in advertising but these seldom have legs in the advertising sense of the word since it becomes increasingly difficult to ‘out sex’ the competition given FCC rules governing decency in as well as the availability of edge-of-porn offerings from the Internet.

It turns out that I initially lambasted the only ad that appears to have had any legs at all for being far too somber and a poor sequel to the energized Eminem ad created for last year’s Super bowl and far too anemic for a highly diverse Nielsen rated Super Bowl audience of over 113 million people. Yes, despite the resonance of Clint Eastwood’s voice over for the Chrysler ‘Half-time in America’ ad it is the one that appears to have life after the super bowl albeit it took the political sensitivities of the times to claim its legs and whip them into shape. The ad going against the grain of typical auto ads included no views of cars and Chrysler’s name wasn’t even mentioned until the very end, which lead to its lack of clarity and invited Carl Rove’s rant that Eastwood and Obama were working hand in hand.

Even more vitriol was beckoned from many Republicans as they accused the agency producing the ad – W+K ~Wieden+Kennedy, Clint Eastwood, and Chrysler for sending out a pro-Obama message in the two-minute Super Bowl ad. Clint Eastwood defended the Chrysler ad saying that it was intended to be apolitical.

The two-minute ad that by my estimates costs nearly 3 million dollars or $233,334 per second clearly made the case that the “bailout” intervention is what has saved the auto industry and poised America for a comeback.

Certainly the Obama team should reveal in this interpretation as many politicos are jokingly suggesting that his 2012 campaign slogan will be “Bin Laden is dead, and GM lives”! Tying Obama directly to this ad would represent subliminal advertising in its highest form, from my standpoint.

But tangentially, if you really dig deep and follow the money trail you’ll find that Obama did drive a 2005 Chrysler 300C prior to becoming President and it was recently placed for auction for over a million dollars – money certainly intended to fund his Super Pac. Reports are that it got no bids because it pulled to the left. I’m one who thinks we can use a lot more of that.

By Dr. J. Anthony Snorgrass, AICP

Associate Professor of Communication

Advertising, Branding & Strategic Media

School of Visual & Communication Arts

Avila University

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Five Sex Based Trends Advertising Just Can't Shake (Via Alex Leo)

The advertising world has not caught up to the advances of half our population and continues to use stereotypes and violence to prey on our most vile desires. Here are the worst of them--the trends that won't die despite our cultural outrage, and personal boredom.

BONDAGE - This year Remy Martin debuted it's "things are getting interesting" campaign that features a mediocre Website and a series of billboards/magazine spreads depicting women in degrading bondage positions. You may think, "hey this one shows two women, there aren't even men involved, how can it be sexist?" But most of the ads (not available online) have men between the two women in controlling positions. And even without that, these women are obviously putting on a show for an outsider, not having a passionate lesbian love affair for themselves. These types of ads gain traction in cultural periods of female advancement--capturing the fantasy of "putting us back where we belong.

"Remy Martin describes its followers as "influential, social, and multicultural urban males, ages 25 to 35."Men of this ilk and age range (read: over 16) should know better than to fall for this kind of pandering. If we switch the view from this being sexy, to this being a pathetic attempt to make an undersexed male feel powerful in the face of female accomplishment, the image loses its appeal. I would like to start a "things that are not interesting" campaign, which would include men insecure enough about themselves that they can't talk to women who aren't physically degraded. I would also include cognac.

RAPE -- The world of high fashion has been the worst offender in the violence-as-art game. Cavalli had pirates, Chanel had a wife beater, and now Dolce and Gabbana has this. Let's get this out there now: It's not edgy, it's ridiculous. This is a gang rape, and any woman that sees those shoes instead of that message deserves those shoes. Any man who doesn't see that this is rape is probably looking at one of the hard bodies in the background and therefore not really a threat to women.

"SLUTS" -- Much like the Calvin Klein ads of the early 90s--you remember the ones that made you feel like you were watching child porn, cause you sorta were--this ad offers a young woman (with the face of a small child) posed in a sexually suggestive manner. They are offering you a virgin in looks and expression, and a slut in the tagline: "You know you're not the first." She's not a virgin--she knows what she's doing. She's been used so you can do whatever you like to her. That's the implicit message of this ad. She's young and nubile, but not prudish. She's the ultimate fantasy: a virgin who won't say no to anything. This combination of the Madonna and the whore is ultimately a fantasy of degrading both body and mind. This girl is in no way a threat: she's young and won't say no, no one has to offer her anything, she is just there for your needs, just like a car.

GIRL ON GIRL ACTION -- We get it, some men find the idea of two women together appealing. MTV has reality shows devoted to it, casual and exploitative lesbianism is now a part of our culture. But aren't companies like Nikon supposed to be better than that? They bring us goofy Ashton Kutcher commercials (not that those are okay either) and sponsor the Boston Red Sox (yeah, that's pretty bad too). But they are a staple of the photography world and should be held to a higher standard than Tila Tequila. There are many meanings to the term corporate responsibility and one of them is not to fetishize female sexuality.

"Shower me Shots" -- I can't open a magazine anymore without seeing a thinly-veiled coital moment posing as an advertisement for some sort of beauty product. Jezebel tracked these for a while, rounding up the worst offenders. The images and tag lines reinforce the idea of women sex receptacle, and therefore simply a receiver of sex, not one engaging in an equal process. This ad reads "I Want You All Over Me," which is as subtle as it is sexy. As Jezebel points out, women like orgasming too, sex is not just about male pleasure, it's a two way road and all of these ads find their own way around that truth.

The fact that these trends are so widespread is not the fault of the advertising world--these people are paid to appeal to our ids, they are often self-aware in their tendency to make the world harder for women, that's the life they've chosen. It is mainstream companies like BMW, Mitchum, Nikon, mainstream publications that host these images, and mainstream readers who use these products despite their appalling treatment of women that are truly to blame. The advertising world reacts to client demands and consumer activity--we have control over only one of those fields.

More Resources




Pushing the limits of cultural tolerance (via Shawn Murphy)

Our attitudes toward sex tell us just about everything we need to know about ourselves. Go ahead and open a book, put on the TV, pop in a DVD or turn on your iPod. It’s all about sex. Even the stuff that isn’t explicitly about sex (Especially the stuff that isn’t explicitly about sex). That we tolerate prehistoric opinions about a woman’s role in the world is revealing. (That we in the U.S.A. are, in many ways, the most advanced nation on earth in terms of womens’ rights and opportunity is clearly cause for concern in this regard.) That sex sells confirms that most people are thinking about sex; it’s not all that complicated. Even the people who have other things on their mind usually don’t mind seeing a beautiful woman (or man) on the cover of a magazine or in a movie. But what does it say about our collective culture that sexism not only sells, but is utilized as a virtually foolproof sales mechanism?

Additional information can be found at