What do puppies, girls in bikinis, and beer all have in common? They can all be seen in Super Bowl ads, of course.
This year, however, Super Bowl ads were taken to a whole new level by using the ad space to promote social justice issues, especially for the empowerment of women. What was once simply a platform to promote up and coming products is now becoming a space to promote social awareness to a wide spread audience.
Normally, Super Bowl ads use clever punch lines, sex, perfect lighting, and celebrity endorsements to promote products for companies. In the ever-progressing race to out wit other companies, creating Super Bowl ads has become a competitive art in itself. Derek Rucker and Tim Calkins from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University write, “A classical use of the Super Bowl has been for the launch of new, or previously unadvertised, product or service”.
One of the most famous examples of this ‘launching’ of a new product can be seen in Apple’s “1984” commercial, which unveiled the original Macintosh operating system. In a representation of what the world was described to be like in George Orwell’s “1984”, an athletic woman destroys the talking computer to reveal the words, “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’”.
Apple was able to use iconic cultural symbols on a platform that reached the widest America audience available at the time to reveal their revolutionary technology. Without the medium of the Super Bowl to announce this product, Apple might not have been able to grow as quickly and as widely as it did.
Though this type of ad was still prevalent with this year’s Super Bowl, 2015 was different. With ads like Always’ “Like A Girl” and nomore.org’s domestic violence PSA, organizations are utilizing this incredible platform to spread awareness of struggles that women face to a male-oriented football culture and enact change.
As the first of its kind, nomore.org’s domestic violence PSA brings awareness to an audience wrapped in a domestic violence culture. NFL players this year in particular have been in the news for stories of domestic violence, making the Super Bowl a perfect opportunity to speak about these issues.
In what Virginia Witt, the director of nomore.org, says was inspired by real calls to 911, the audience follows a 911 call where a woman pretends to order a pizza. The emergency responder eventually figures out that she cannot reveal that she called 911, and sends an officer to her home. While this audio is playing, the audience is shown a home with a fist shaped hole in the wall, furniture askew, and unmade bed.
The chilling PSA brings to light the complexity of domestic violence while still empowering those who experience domestic violence to know that help is readily available to them. The PSA adds a relatable and personal narrative to an otherwise abstract or hard to grasp issue.
Witt explains, “The goal of the PSA is to activate and engage the vast audience of men and women across America in saying NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault.” She continues, “Public awareness is the first, essential step toward changing the culture into one where domestic violence and sexual assault no longer happen.”
The Super Bowl also created a platform for Always to show their “Like a Girl” campaign to during a culturally male-dominated event. In an effort to reveal the gaps between gender roles, the campaign tries to redefine what it means to say “like a girl”. Though the campaign was originally launched in June, they were able to create a commercial format that caters to the Super Bowl environment.
Fama Francisco, the vice president of Global Always, said in a statement, “We feel so strongly about this, that we’re now taking this message to a bigger stage, the Super Bowl, so even more people can join us to champion girls’ confidence and change the meaning of ‘like a girl’ from an insult into something positive and amazing.”
The 2015 Super Bowl’s record-breaking 120.8 million viewers created a powerful platform that organizations embraced whole-heartedly. The organizations were able to share the narratives of struggles women face through a medium that has simply no comparison in audience reach. The organizations were even willing to pay a whopping 4.5 million dollars per 30 seconds for the chance to utilize this influential platform.
Though, when you have something worth sharing, the impact can be priceless.