Ladies are watching, too


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Annually, the Super Bowl rakes in more viewers than any other television program. In fact, Super Bowl XLIV had the highest viewership in television history. According to Nielsen Co., 106.5 million people tuned in to watch the two teams of titans compete for those shiny gold rings … or maybe not. Like many individuals, my interest in the game could be summed up as shrug-worthy once my favorite team was out of the running (Vikings, you were robbed).

So, why did I — like many Americans — choose to sit through the game? Well, because next-day water-cooler chat isn’t limited to who handled the pigskin the best. No, for one day in the year, advertisements are relevant. Much like the pro teams, businesses bring their A-game to Super Bowl Sunday because, with millions of people watching, they can’t afford not to — literally. The price tag for 30 seconds of airtime? Around $2.6 million per slot, according to CBS.

So, with 100 million eyes on their product, companies gave it their all to capture the minds, hearts, and pocketbooks of all those viewers — right?

Well, if by insulting 41.9 million members of the Super Bowl audience — women — and pandering to the rest is effective marketing, then yep, some got it right on the money indeed.

What I found concerning was how many advertisers seemed to forget the huge percentage of female viewers. Not only was this large demographic of the audience criminally overlooked — as well as typecast as either the man-whipping significant other or as a sexual object — but the themes in many of the ads insulted men, too, by blatantly trying to appeal to the lowest denominator in the sex.

So, allow me to categorize two types of offenders at this year’s Super Bowl:

1) The Castrating Woman: “The castrating woman” theme, as Psychology Today already dubbed this group of ads, was a recurring one. There were numerous commercials that encouraged men to buy their product — if only to prove their manliness — despite their nagging, bossy wives or girlfriends. Dockers’ “wear the pants” ad hinted at this, but by far the worst offenders in this category were the Dodge Charger and FloTV commercials.

In the Dodge Charger ad, male drones lifelessly listed the various chores their wives or girlfriends told them to do. At the commercial’s end, triumphant music plays as a Dodge Charger zooms past. According to the ad, the car is “Man’s last stand.” Against women and the soul-crushing effect they have on men’s lives, presumably.

The FloTV ad depicts a man shopping with his wife/girlfriend instead of watching the football game. The narrator calls this man spineless, further detailing how whipped this poor, sad individual is.

2) Women as objects: This tactic isn’t new to the arena of sports advertising. A few of the offenders: the Megan Fox bathtub commercial for Motorola, the sexualized book club for Bud Light, and, as always, the Go Daddy commercials. Women in these ads served only to be ogled as eye candy. It seemed like this year, there were a particularly high number of ads in this vein.

Not only are these ads wrong on a gender-sensitivity level, but as viewer reaction rolled in, they actually turned out to be some of the least effective ads of the night. According to the top-10 advertisement rankings at NFL FanHouse, which has every Super Bowl commercial linked on its website for viewers to rank, the ads that resorted to misogynistic and male-sex drive pandering themes didn’t even rank. The top-10 ads — including commercials from Doritos, TruTV, and HomeAway.com — used humor to appeal to both sexes. No nagging or half-naked women necessary.

So future Super Bowl advertisers, take note. If you really want to get the most out of your money, never forget — us ladies? Yeah, we’re tuning in, too.

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