Wednesday Morning Quarterback -- On Culture, Kids, And Cola

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

4 comments about "Wednesday Morning Quarterback -- On Culture, Kids, And Cola".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, February 9, 2011 at 12:38 p.m.

    Amen, Frank. American pop culture is the frog in the frying pan. A family audience should not have to suffer through "Your rack is unreal" (and neither should Faith Hill). Some of us are plenty weary of the frat boy humor. It's still possible to get a big laugh without being crude.

  2. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, February 9, 2011 at 12:58 p.m.

    It's not "culture, kids and cola."

    It's football. It's always been this way. It always will be this way.

    And all TV's, STB's and remotes have an on/off switch, not to mention channel-changing buttons. Check out PBS Kids. No cola or knuckle-dragging there.

    Parents ought to be "Everyday Quarterbacks & Coaches." Then, they would not have to spend so much time railing against nonsense and worse.

    Lead by example and spend time with your children. That's the answer one ought to be looking for.

    Just a thought I can't get out of my head.

    Thank you.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 9, 2011 at 2:45 p.m.

    I think that parents should have control of what their children watch and do, but not watching the Superbowl is going a bit spastic. Doug and Frank, you are right. If all an advertiser has to sell is sex and drugs without any other merit, then they really have nothing. It suggests to check out their competitors who do have something to say in their promotions. Little pitchers have big ears and monkey see monkey do. If advertisers do not think the make impressions on what they say and do, then stop promoting using the money to reduce shelf prices. yeah.

  4. George Mccasland from Dads House Educational Group, February 9, 2011 at 6:47 p.m.

    Super Bowl Pepsi Max Commercial Showing Woman Abusing Man
    This commercial was highly offensive to the male victims of domestic violence who find themselves unable to find help as people think it is funny. Seventeen years ago, the Super Bowl also played another controversial commercial, based on report that never existed, yet was reported as fact by the national news, that more domestic violence against women took place on Super Bowl Night than any other night of the year. Men are the victims of domestic violence in at least 39% of the cases, yet shelters are designed to only help women. Consider the uproar this would have generated had had the gender roles been reversed. Note that the creator of the as lives near me.

    Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women

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