How the Super Bowl Ads Are Starting to Represent America

Is America getting better? And how much do you think politics influence Madison Avenue?

If Super Bowl ads are an indicator, then perhaps we are bettering ourselves and politics might be part of the influence.

There were several themes that would indicate that marketers are playing to a “better America” — one with less sexism; an increase in diversity and an intolerant stance around domestic violence. I have my theories on why this was a breakout year for a better America — and it’s a combination of election year with powerful females running for office and having the first African American President in office since 2008.

How does these political changes reflect in the way brands market to consumers?

While this year’s game proved to be slightly underwhelming, it was interesting to see how the ads are evolving year over year. When catering to 111.9 million people with varying backgrounds and interest, how do you create an ad that ties back to your product and positively resonates with your audience?

Let’s take a look at some of the brands who were willing to spend $4.5 million dollars to have their voices heard and see how their ads made an impact.

Less Cringeworthy Ads Full of Sexism and Misogyny

When you think of football, you think of a bunch of men sitting around drinking beers and pounding their chests, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. But if you were to see Super Bowl ads of years past, you might think that this is the audience that marketers are catering to during the big game. In fact, nearly half of Super Bowl viewers are women., for example, offered a little tongue-in-cheek humor by poking a little fun at GoDaddy’s historically tasteless ads by pointing out their obvious use of using scantily clad females to sell a product – except they replaced it with a “sexy” Kung Fu Panda instead.

According to Bridget Brennan of Why She Buys, “a survey conducted by The Representation Project, the 3% Conference and Instant Census showed that women viewers agree that this year’s ads are more respectful to women than previous years.”

More Socially Conscious Ads

The “No More” commercial addressed the elephant in the room. In 2014, a painful video went viral of football player Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend in an elevator. While domestic violence is not a problem limited to specific football players like Rice, addressing a highly sensitive and often ignored topic during one of the most social events of the year was an excellent way to remind audiences that domestic violence does not discriminate. It applies to many ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds.


An Increase in Diversity

Hollywood is notorious for having a lack of minority representation both in TV shows and movies. And when there is representation, it tends to be more stereotypical that default minorities to a pigeonholed role. The Super Bowl, however, is starting to reverse this trend by giving more mainstream roles to people with varying ethnic identities. According to a study in 2015 of Super Bowl ads by University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, African Americans had a leading or co-leading role in 19 of 61 commercials aired last year, as compared to just two such roles in 2011.

Paypal’s “New Money” ad showed a true representation of diversity in American by casting a racially diverse group of people.

While there is still work to do in terms of accurately representing our population, it was refreshing to see how much progress we’ve made in the last couple of years.