In a world where sex sells, sales must be down this year. Though traditionally a platform for envelope-pushing advertising, this year’s Super Bowl was more family friendly than ever.
This should come as no surprise. Since Janet Jackson’s breast found its way onto televisions across America, media censorship has been on the rise. For the past year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has cracked down on radio and television content.
Through all the dullness and mediocrity, there were a few highlights. The “don’t judge too quickly” Ameriquest commercials, which portrayed robbery and cat killing misunderstandings, were some of the night’s most clever. The commercials’ emotional high point came courtesy of Anheuser-Busch. The one-minute spot showed U.S. troops walking through an airport after returning home from deployment. The spot features no words, just the applause of other travelers and airport personnel as the troops walk through the airport. The final shot of the ad shows the message “Thank You.”
While the idea of a company using troops to advertise gave many viewers mixed feelings, it was difficult to deny the power of the ad. The only mention of Anheuser-Busch was at the very end, when the logo and company name was shown, which made the gratitude in the ad seem genuine. Regardless of the intention of the advertisers, it was difficult to deny the power of the spot. In these times of social and political division, we can all use a reminder of the sacrifices others make for us, even during the Super Bowl.
In light of Janet and Justin’s halftime mishap in 2004, some of the best commercials for this year’s game never made it on air. GoDaddy.com, whose sole spot was heavily cut for censorship reasons, made light of the infamous wardrobe malfunction. The full-length version of the ad was funnier and more comprehensible than the watered down version that made it to air.
Bud Light, whose skydiving ad received high ratings from viewers, also poked fun at last year’s halftime show in an ad that never aired. The ad showed Jackson backstage before the show last year. When she walks away, a guy tries to open a Bud Light using her costume, and makes the rip that leads to the famed costume mishap. The spot was not inappropriate in terms of language or sexuality and would have been considered tame in past years.
After reviewing the commercials, it became clear that many of them were momentarily funny. The P. Diddy Diet Pepsi commercial, which showed celebrities driving pimped out Diet Pepsi trucks, was funny in its mockery of pop culture. Carson Kressley’s appearance in another Diet Pepsi ad elicited laughs. Fed Ex nailed its commercial parodying formulaic Super Bowl commercials.
These commercials were funny but fleeting. They provided momentary humor but no lasting effect. We laughed, we grabbed another drink or piece of pizza and we forgot the point.
It is not that this year’s ads were bad, but in the past they have been better. Perhaps it isn’t necessary to have sex and inappropriate humor dominate our airwaves, but if we can’t even laugh at the past, what are we really learning?