Somewhere along the way, the media masters that have kept the football portion of the Super Bowl content fairly safe and "super" have unfortunately learned to slowly look the other way while the advertisers and agencies whipped out their checkbooks. Some might even suggest that, as the promotions for their own network shows got racier, they've lost the ability to say "No" to a wide variety of increasingly, yet equally, offensive ads.
It's really a shame, except for the fact that "shame" seems to have left the arena years ago. Outrage is out, and Tolerance has morphed into its demonic half-sister, Acceptance.
Truth be told, when it comes to Super Bowl ads, most adults have gotten pretty numb to the tawdry, the silly, the salacious. But kids, well, that's another story. And before some of you start opining that minors don't belong in the Super Bowl viewing environment, let's not forget that somewhere in that four-hour production, hidden between the sexual innuendo, violence, negative caricatures and cultural stereotypes that bankroll the evening, sits one of the greatest sports productions on planet Earth.
With approximately 20% of the U.S. population falling between the ages of five and 19, and even assuming that youths are less likely than normal to watch the Super Bowl when compared to other traditional TV fare, it's a fairly safe estimate that somewhere around 10 million kids, out of a potential 60 million, watched the Super Bowl.
Going further out on a limb, and making the stunningly naïve assumption that 50% of the Super-Bowl-watching youngsters had a sober, vigilant, or conscientious parent, guardian, or Scout Master nearby, roughly half of those kids watching the game either skipped, muted, or otherwise rendered MOST of the advertising powerless. These fortunate five million were at least momentarily deprived of the primary stereotype portrayed by a near majority of all Super Bowl ads; namely, that all men are sexist lowbrow Neanderthals . I mean, why ELSE would they watch these ads?
This leaves around 5 million to -6 million American kids watching the Super Bowl ads, ranking the aggregate bundle of 2011 Super Bowl ads as one of the most watched one-hour blocks of television content among kids. We're talking an audience of kids greater than any scheduled show on Disney, likely rivaling average episodes of "American Idol."
Certainly, plenty of ads pushed the envelope of propriety, including perennial baddy Go Daddy and Skechers, to name a few. Thankfully, ads like these start out brash, sending much-appreciated warning flares. Go Daddy wisely slaps its logo on the screen moments into the creative, giving a heads up to seasoned viewers, with thumbs on the pause, skip, or mute buttons. Hearing and then seeing Kim Kardashian three seconds into the Skecher ad, gave many of us parents a fighting chance to do the remote control juggle before the jiggle took over.
No fair warning, however, from Pepsi Max's "First Date."
Not that the other two Pepsi Max ads, "Torpedo Cooler" and "Love Hurts," were much better, mind you. This duo deployed the time-honored technique of mating slapstick humor with sexism, helping cement top-of-mind ranking for "soft drink containers most likely to hit you in the skull - or groin." Money well spent, indeed.
But "First Date," well, it started subtly enough, and then used the most powerful ad efficacy tool of all, dating back to the era of radio, to get its urgent message across: repetition. Actually, by repeating "I want to sleep with her," six times in rapid succession, the leering male voiceover was so unnervingly extended, like a skip in a record, that at my home, it drew the unwanted attention of those who weren't even watching television, at all.
To insure that "First Date" left no doubt as to the targeted intelligence level of their knuckle-dragging legions of soft drink followers, the male character punctuated the ad with a somewhat muted, "Damn," near the end of the spot. Even this potential "first" went down in flames, as another soft drink -- Brisk -- beat Pepsi Max to the "damn" punch, with Eminem's first quarter rant, two hours earlier.
Now, by way of comparison, let's take a gander over at the other side of the beverage aisle - there you'll find 90 seconds worth of Wieden & Kennedy's Coca-Cola creations. Two exceptionally well produced ads, one featuring border guards who find a way to stifle their animosity long enough to share a Coke (and a smile), and an epic one -minute animation, "Dragon," depicting feuding factions of fantasy creatures, who uncover the mystical, magical powers brought on by drinking Coca-Cola.
So, to recap: One cola captured our imaginations, in a manner suitable for, and comprehensible by, every age group, while the other left nothing to the imagination, in as unsettling a way as could be imagined.
I can't be alone on this, can I? I recognize the game is over; we've moved onto more news, different ads, etc. It's a new day, so, one might say, "Let it go."
Then why can't I get this thought out of my head?
I want a Coca Cola. I want a Coca Cola. I want a Coca Cola. I want a Coca Cola. I want a Coca Cola. I want a Coca Cola.
Frank Maggio is a father of four, and founder of several media concerns, including 7.TV, LLC, Maggio Media Research, LLC, and erinMedia, LLC, a former TV ratings company. He is currently finalizing pre-production of CRAVE, a patented live TV game show, and can be contacted at Frank@7.tv.