Sophilthy: Post-Super Bowl critique: Commercials wrongfully fixate on American ideals

By Sophia Al Rasheed / Columnist

I’m one of those that only cares about the Super Bowl for the potential of the Steelers to play, and, in the event of that not happening, a chance to over-eat and watch commercials.

To be fair, this habit was set on a certain precedent that Super Bowl commercials normally intend to be, well, funny and provide something about which viewers can get excited. I’ve developed a genuine love for commercials, such as the one-second Miller High Life commercial of 2008 and the baby-holding, glory-dad Taco Bell commercials of 2012 because of the time (and big bucks) that advertisers spent to make us laugh.

These offered subtle entertainment between the harshness of football for people like me who, admittedly, might not understand everything that is going on in the game. In addition came my tradition of consistently missing each year’s funniest commercial by an unfortunately predestined plan of going to the bathroom at exactly the wrong time. I’ve secretly loved everything about this unfortunate tradition.

I thought my love for Super Bowl advertisements was embarrassing, but I definitely don’t feel like I should be the embarrassed one this year. The disappointing and awkward result of this year’s advertisements resulted from a new tactic of apparently appealing to American pride and tapping into sentimentality as a means to sell their products. Instead of receiving multiple examples of the expected comedic relief, we only received a select few light-hearted commercials about products such as Greek yogurt and the subtle, quiet, audience-instructing Honda commercial with Bruce Willis and Fred Armisen. Oh, and if it weren’t for the Full House reunion and Ellen Degeneres’s modern-day-Goldilocks commercial, we wouldn’t have anything to talk about this week.

Now, I’m all for a little variation while products and names are being waved in front of my face; Even Ron Swanson would awe at the Budweiser puppy-and-horse commercial. But spending the majority of the air time making sure that America feels patriotic is a Super Bowl advertisement characteristic that I haven’t witnessed before. And when you think about what the American pride is actually representing (selling you on a product), it comes to little surprise that the outcome wasn’t exactly pleasant, and created more harm than good.

For one thing, it left many viewers with the weird contrast of weighing out American pride against a disinterest in a certain website, or a definite appreciation of peace over conflict with a complete disdain for Axe deodorant. We couldn’t outright say that we hate a certain commercial because it would, to some, imply that we hate these sentimental ideals.

But if you want a much more obvious indication that these commercials didn’t execute a smooth strategy, you can read the outrage over some of these commercials, such as this year’s Coca-Cola commercial in which “America the Beautiful” was sung in a variety of languages. If you look at Twitter posts in response to the commerical, it would appear Coca-Cola lost some pretty racist consumers at the expense of its thirst for sentimentality. Although it’s incredibly disappointing to witness anyone in 2014 display these reactions, you can’t expect to mix something as flat as consumerism and as complicated as a sense of American identity and not stir up conflict.

The thing is, American pride isn’t something you should force down people’s throats like the appeal of a new twist-off cap of a beer, and it definitely shouldn’t be used as a tactic to sell. These emotions that advertisements are trying to tap into are created through personal experience, not within the aisles of a convenience store. 

Although on the surface it seems like we should support the advocation of a racially diverse, peace-promoting, worker-driven America, it’s important to remember that these agendas are directed by a team of advertisers whose main goal is to appeal to you as a consumer, and not your American pride. Essentially, they’re trying to sell you a product, no matter how peace-loving or appreciative of different races you are. Humor is accepted as a dignified way (if there is one) of doing this because it’s understood as a neutral, innocent medium to appeal to viewers.

Sentimental commercials that rely on genuine feelings don’t quite have that justification. Hopefully next year’s commercials get the memo.

Write to Sophia at [email protected].