I am still bitter about the Super Bowl. I don’t want to talk about how the Falcons could have just made one more field goal to secure the win. I don’t want to talk about how excited and full of hope I was at half time. I don’t want to talk about how I avoided Facebook (read, Patriots Fans) for a few days afterward. I just don’t want to talk football until, well, next preseason.
However, this is one large part of the Super Bowl I do want to discuss. No, not Lady Gaga (because let’s face it, her performance was beyond words). But, the commercials.
We all know Super Bowl ads are notorious, possibly more so than the game itself among certain groups of people. With the possibility to reach over one hundred million people – at the low price of $5 million for a 30 second spot – Super Bowl ads pose a great opportunity for a company to convey their message, whatever it may be.
I will admit, I am a fan of the funny Super Bowl ad. (One of my favorites is from Doritos in 2014.) But this year, it seemed the goal of companies was to not make viewers laugh, but instead, to take a stand. Many advertisements had a political theme, with a message of inclusion and embracing diversity. In his article for Forbes, contributor William Arruda states:
“The plethora of diversity and inclusion-theme Super Bowl ads demonstrates how many household name companies are recognizing that authentically embracing diversity will help them win – in the war for talent, and in the marketplace.”
Didn’t watch the game? Well, here are just a few ads to catch you up to speed:
Coca-Cola rebroadcast the add from 2014, featuring “America the Beautiful” sung in seven different languages. (This ad originally faced controversy when it premiered.)
It’s a 10 Hair Care took a hairstyle inspired stance to diversity and inclusion, with an opening jab at the Commander-in-Chief’s hairdo:
Airbnb’s ad is perhaps the most direct. But, the company is known for being vocal against the policies of the United States government:
All three of these ads celebrate everyone in the United States, not just those who may seem conventional. Minorities are celebrated and diversity is portrayed as an asset. This message is especially poignant today, in a time when many believe that United States government does not share these values. Watching these ads, it is easy to feel excited and hopeful that diversity is being embraced by the people of the United States. And large companies? The ones which carefully craft the advertisements? They are seen as leading the charge.
As public sentiment shifts to become more inclusive of all people, the great the push-back against the government, which many perceive to stand in the way of progress. Especially with the President’s executive order, (which has subsequently been struck down by the 9th Circuit Court), messages of diversity and inclusion further the progressive idea of greater protection for those not in the majority. A goal which may seem far off for some.
But one way of doing this? Supporting politicians that adopt a “Brennan-esque” interpretation of the United States Constitution – a living Constitution. The interpretation Brennan champions may have complex implications, but the interpretative method is simple. One must ask themselves: what do the words of the Constitution mean in the current time? Justice Brennan advocates for “each generation [to have] the choice to overrule or add to the fundamental principles enunciated by the Framers” (3). Brennan believes in a great adaptability of the words of the Constitution to “cope with current problems and current needs” of the people, not just those who are in power (5). And for a great many, there is a perception that the views of the people currently do not match the views of the federal government. Now is the time to incite a shift in these fundamental policies.
Therefore, by watching these commercials and buying the products advertised, it’s easy to feel like we are at lasting holding the government to its role of being a “provider for so many disadvantaged citizens” (5). But, is this really the case? Are the messages conveyed in these feel-good, diverse ads, really influential? Will change come from them?
Well, I think that’s up to the companies and how they plan to support their causes.
I don’t know about you, but I think that to promote a political agenda, or push back against one, advertising won’t hurt. However, I think that consumers need to tread lightly when they are viewing these advertisements, especially if they are in favor of their political message. It seems as if it could be easy to fall into the trap of a sense of activism, that buying a certain product or supporting a certain brand is a way to actively take a stand against the government. While I don’t think this is inherently a bad thing, I would hope that it would not be anyone’s primary medium of political activism. After all, even if a company is committed to a certain cause and working to further it, their commercials still are marketing, designed to increase sales.