The Battle Over Super Bowl Ads
Posted on January 30, 2010 at 1:48 pm
On February 7, the Saints will take on the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. And the ads are as high-profile as the game. Companies and groups must pay CBS more than $2 million in addition to the cost of producing the ad, which can be as much per-minute as a feature film.
A lot of people want to reach the Super Bowl audience and some want to sell ideas, not products. CBS, which has refused some “advocacy” ads in the past, this year has said they will permit those that are “responsibly produced.” They have already been criticized for agreeing to run an ad from Focus on the Family that features college football player Tim Tebow and his mother. She explains that though she was advised to get an abortion after she became ill, she continued the pregnancy and gave birth to Tebow. The Women’s Media Center and a group of organizations dedicated to reproductive rights, tolerance, and social justice have protested.
CBS is also getting complaints about what it is not showing. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has called on CBS to explain why it is refusing to run an ad for a gay dating site called Mancrunch during the Super Bowl. CBS issued a statement but did not explain their concerns: “After reviewing the ad — which is entirely commercial in nature — our Standards and Practices department decided not to accept this particular spot. As always, we are open to working with the client on alternative submissions.”
The Washington Post has a thoughtful op-ed by Frances Kissling, the former president of Catholics for Choice and Kate Michelman, former president of Naral Pro-Choice America, on “what Tim Tebow’s Super Bowl ad can teach the pro-choice movement.”
For abortion rights supporters, picking on Tim Tebow and his mom is not the way to go. Instead of trying to block or criticize the Focus on the Family ad, the pro-choice movement needs its own Super Bowl strategy….We’d go with a 30-second spot, too. The camera focuses on one woman after another, posed in the situations of daily life: rushing out the door in the morning for work, flipping through a magazine, washing dishes, teaching a class of sixth-graders, wheeling a baby stroller. Each woman looks calmly into the camera and describes her different and successful choice: having a baby and giving it up for adoption, having an abortion, having a baby and raising it lovingly. Each one being clear that making choices isn’t easy, but that life without tough choices doesn’t exist.
I think CBS should be open to “responsibly produced” advocacy ads on any issue of public concern. I doubt that the Focus on the Family will change anyone’s mind, and I support the right of Tenbow and his mother to tell their story and explain their views. I can imagine gay dating site ads that would and would not be appropriate. And I share the concerns of parents who are uncomfortable with the ads for ED and prostate medication, sexual pleasure aids and other highly personal items during telecasts of sporting events. What do you think?