During Sunday’s Super Bowl, many commercials garnered laughs (Doritos baby, I’m looking at you), but some took advantage of the massive audience to share progressive, activist messages. Some of these spots aimed to sell a product along with their progressive messages, while others were purely public service announcements.
Axe aired an advertisement that challenged traditional ideas of masculinity and male attractiveness and encouraged men to “find your magic.” The advertisement is an inspiring and boldly inclusive movement that shows men that they can own the features that make them feel the most confident. The advertisement began, “Come on, a six pack? Who needs a six pack when you got the nose?” and continued through a series of qualities that might make someone feel confident in his ability to succeed romantically. The spot included dancers, lovers, men in heels and men in wheelchairs.
This advertisement’s social commentary is meaningful in a broader, more generalized context, but it is especially important in that it affirms Axe’s image as the preferred scent of ultimate bros trying to attract women. In fact, an old Axe ad claimed that “a man plus Axe equals a man with a woman on each arm.” Through this new advertisement, Axe attempts to shed its negative reputation and include more people in its consumer base. Though the goal of the advertisement is to sell a product, the company made a bold choice in deemphasizing the objectification of women and striving to include more people. Broadcasting so-called “alternative” ideas of masculinity during one of the year’s most-watched and most hyper-masculine telecasts is an excellent step towards increased representation in media.
In a less consumer-driven effort, No More, an organization focused on ending domestic violence and sexual assault, aired an advertisement that may have struck a chord with many Super Bowl viewers. The spot showed a simple text conversation developing between two friends. One is at a Super Bowl party and asks the other to come, but the other declines because her boyfriend is in “one of his moods” and she probably shouldn’t go out. The spot ends with the ever-ominous, intermittent “typing” ellipsis that iPhone users know so well. The advertisement encourages people to look out for the less obvious and expected signs of domestic violence among their friends. This advertisement surely cost more than $5 million, so the fact that No More was willing to shell out for prime advertising space is indicative of the importance of domestic violence and sexual assault as social issues today.
Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars also made use of the massive Super Bowl audience to share both generically positive and controversially political messages. This trend towards everyday activism is helping normalize what used to be considered “special issues” and bringing attention to real social ills during mainstream social events.