Super Bowl Adverstisers Clean Up Their Image

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

So did you watch the big game for the football or the commercials?
If you were watching the action when the game wasn't on you may have noticed the commercials were a little tamer and not so risqué.

It's the biggest day of the year in advertising.

"Super Bowl weekend has become the super bowl for advertising, it's the big weekend, it's the big event," says Sean Mullen, Creative Director for The Hiebing Group.

The ads in this year's game had a cloud hanging over them–a cloud called decency.

"Last years halftime wardrobe malfunction became a flashpoint for better or for worse," says Mullen of the episode where Janet Jackson's breast was exposed during the Super Bowl halftime show.

That scene started off a national debate about what was appropriate for a family event.

"A lot of people are running scared from the FCC because they don't know what the FCC is going to do next and they don't know what they're going to be fined for," says Joanne Cantor, a UW Professor of Communication Arts.

"The network and the industry itself is trying to pull back a little bit," agrees Mullen.

Just the threat of FCC fines made the Fox Network reject certain commercials or force re–edits on others.

A Ford commercial with a tempted clergyman won't run because some said it reminded them of the clergy sex–abuse scandals.

Another Bud Lite commercial spoofing last years wardrobe malfunction has found an even bigger life on the internet.

"So the question is, were they created that way to be rejected for the publicity so people would go to the web and watch them?" asks Mullen.

Cantor says the whole decency debate overlooks the fact that many commercials combine sex, alcohol and violence, leaving parents with a tough choice whether to allow their children to watch.

"Maybe we should start rating commercials."

Mullen says just because most ads played it safe this year doesn't mean they will stay that way.

"The trend right now might be a little more conservation but like everything else that will pass and the Super Bowl ads in the future will push the envelope once again."

A new chairman of the FCC will be appointed soon, and Professor Cantor says that person will have a lot of input into whether advertisers are crossing the line into indecency.

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