What Super Bowl Ads Say About Us


There is an ancient saying that goes “you can tell everything you need to know about a culture of people by their Super Bowl Advertisements.”

Alright, I just made that up. But maybe you can tell a little something. After all – the Super Bowl is one of the most watched events in the world.

To be fair, the super bowl is a time for good sportsmanship, competition, and entertainment. It’s a time to be patriotic and thankful for even having the opportunity to live in this great country and play these great games in fellowship with one another. It’s a time to be thankful for each and every one of our lives. It’s a time to recognize the potential and inherent dignity of every one of our lives as human beings. It’s a celebration of all that.

That’s why this advertisement by CatholicVote.org was a perfect fit for such a celebration. Unfortunately, NBC ideologically rejected it.  There is nothing in this video offensive.  It says nothing about the issue of abortion at all.  It is beautiful.  It simply celebrates life – every life – despite the hardships many endure.

But apparently NBC thought America wouldn’t be interested in seeing it.

Instead, NBC took this great opportunity and massive viewership of an event like the super bowl and showed people what?

  • Lots of beers ads including the importance of drinkability
  • Investment ads for making more money
  • Help with your taxes (so Uncle Sam gets his share)
  • Flowers telling a lady “no one wants to see you naked”
  • Plenty of food to stuff our faces with
  • New gadgets like phones, TVs, and more stuff
  • How you can get Cash 4 Gold
  • And of course more movies we can watch
  • [update from Joshua via comments] Web hosting services sold by strippers
  • [update from Craig via comments] A service that promotes cheating on your spouse.

And of course NBC took the opportunity to promote yet more of their own TV shows and sitcoms.

There were even a few positive commercials promoting some issue or cause like:

  • Dog adoption
  • Ronald McDonald Foundation
  • The environment (Ecomagination.com)
  • Overweight and Obese kids

These are all apparently OK to show.  But an ad promoting the dignity of every human life despite hardships they may face?  Oh no…this is entirely inappropriate.

Further, just about every single one of these ads I’ve listed are by for-profit companies.  They are all running these ads (however philanthropic they may be) to make more money.  CatholicVote.org isn’t out to make a single buck with this ad.  They are out to celebrate human life and do so out of charity.  And NBC would have made just as much money off of this ad as any one of those other ads that they did choose.  But they rejected this one.

What does it say about us when our culture thinks it is inappropriate to show a beautiful ad celebrating human life despite our hardships?  Are we scared of the truth in it?  Is NBC?

11 comments Add comment

Adam Sweeney February 2, 2009 at 11:35 am

Great thoughts, Matt. In a post-9/11 world, we have grown obsessed with sensationalism. Sadly, in an effort to get the most viewers, media has decided to forfeit the majority of positive news out there. The Super Bowl ads are a textbook example. But how do you fight pop culture and what they’re selling? I like to treat it like a small child. I praise the outlets and organization that do good things, and ignore the rest. Television needs time-out, it seems.

Tess February 2, 2009 at 11:39 am

Well said. The connsumerism of our country is beyond “out of control”. You made a great point that NBC would rather show a million and one Coke commercials than promote human life.

Joshua of Catholic Tech Tips February 2, 2009 at 11:50 am

Very well put! Don’t forget the commercials by a certain web-hosting company that I totally despise. I’m surprised how many Christians use their services, “because their prices are so low.” I use a hosting company that is a little more expensive, yes, but they don’t use lust to advertise their services. Plus I am very impressed with my hosting provider’s costumer service. That alone is a good reason to choose one company over another.

Oh! and I loved how NBC had a commercial promoting how their news is here during these exciting times of “hope” in our country. I don’t recall seeing these commercials of positivity (propaganda) while President Bush was in office. I’m just sayin’.

Craig February 2, 2009 at 12:13 pm

You obviously missed the commercial about having discrete affairs with other people who might be married. It’s all just really sad to be honest. The commercial I’m talking about is the ashleymadison.com one. My jaw dropped when I saw that one.

Michelle Wallin February 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm

this makes me think of how they are trying to get abstinence only lessons taken out of school by taking away federal funds for them in the prevention first act. if they teach abstinence-only it doesnt put any money back into the economy because no one would be paying for contraceptives. instead, they teach all children how to use contraceptives, therefore increasing the number of unplanned pregnancies, use of emergency contraception and ultimately abortion. if its good enough for the economy i guess its good enough for everybody.
i miss the times when we were moving forward – getting closer to recognizing the digity of life, instead of sliding away from it.

Leticia Velasquez February 2, 2009 at 1:11 pm

I am suspicious about the way NBC at first supported the ad, to the point of raising money to run it, then suddenly backed away from it.It had been playing on BET during the Inauguration, so it was already out there. Could it be that our new administration expressed their displeasure?

Matthew Warner February 2, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Craig – I did miss that! wow. Not sure how I missed that one. And Josh, I agree 100% with your catch as well…I should have definitely mentioned that.

Adam – TV definitely needs a time out. But unfortunately that means Americans actually NOT watching TV for a change! It’s almost easier to imagine NBC growing a well-formed conscience.

Dave February 2, 2009 at 6:47 pm

You missed the two women about to kiss in the trailer for “Fast and Furious”. No warning, no nothing…just right there for my kids to see. I couldn’t believe it!

marsha February 2, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I heard NBC had a really hard time selling all their ad spots too even had some open the morning of the game still. Serves them right if you ask me.

I am sooo glad someone else is annoyed with “that certain” webhosting company, I have been using them for years for multiple domains, I have not changed b/c it is such a hassle but I complain about looking at the ad’s and renewal emails they send me all the time… maybe you convinced me to finally change this year at renewal. I would swear Hugh Hefner owned the company.

Andy February 3, 2009 at 1:38 pm

One more to add to your list was the ad for the movie “Angels and Demons” billed as the “sequel to the Da Vinci Code”. Now that’s NBC avoiding any political controversy, huh? Stars Tom Hanks…….I used to like him.

Michael February 4, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Down south Comcast subscribers had a 30 second porno clip play during the Super Bowl.

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