07 February 2012

Politics and Super Bowl Commercials


Since its inception in 1967, the Super Bowl has become a key cultural event in America’s civic religion.  But it is not just football fans who gather to watch “The Big Game”.  This year 111 million viewers tuned into the championship game but 114 million people watched  the Half Time spectacular starring Madonna and her cohort M.I.A., who literally gave the finger to the audience. In a similar vein, there are some people who look forward to Super Bowl Sunday for the commercials.


The Super Bowl attracts the largest television audience in the year, so the broadcasting network  command top dollar for commercials run during the game.  This year, a thirty second spot could cost $3.5 million.  So advertisers will use their moment in the spotlight to put their best foot forward with catchy new material.  In fact CBS (not this year’s Super Bowl broadcaster) ran a prime time show celebrating the best and worst of Super Bowl ads as well as hyping the spots that would premiere during the same.  This year, some advertisers leaked their ads online beforehand to spread the excitement.  USA Today convened  panels  in suburban Washington and Phoenix Arizona to measure how much viewers liked the commercials.  Most of the winners featured dogs.

Aside from a super smart canine who used Doritos to facilitate getting rid of felines or the ilk, there were some spots that were overtly political. The Center for Union Facts plunked down good money to show their “Repair Shop” ad. This ad should have been partcularly poignant in host city Indianapolis as Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN) signed legislation that made Indiana the 34th right to work state in the nation, much to the consternation of union activists.


Another unusual Super Bowl spot featured New York City Mayor  Michael Bloomberg (I-NYC) and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D-Boston) sitting together on a couch to urge “keeping guns out of criminals hands”.  Basically, it was two of the biggest proponents of the nanny state advocating more restrictions on the Second Amendment.  Some progressives are concerned that the “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” might push President Obama’s re-election campaign to focus on gun control.  In the face of the “Fast and Furious” DOJ gunrunning scandal and Democrats past history about pushing federal gun control, Daily Beast writer Adam Winkler worries that advocating this issue might cost the Obama campaign votes.


A regionally run Super Bowl ad that has generated a storm of controversy is an ad by former nine term Congressman  Peter Hoekstra (R-MI 2nd) in his opening salvo to unseat Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).  Hoekstra sought to sell the story  that China is a continuing threat to American job creation.  But most of the buzz from the ad involves mouthpiece for the anti-incumbent message.  The negative ad against “ Michigan Sen. Debbie ‘Spend-it-now” is a young Asian women riding a bicycle across fields of rice paddies.

Voices in the media, as well as some dissenters from the Republican party, have criticized the alleged racist depictions in the ad.  Hoekstra is not chagrined by criticism about the commercial.  Hoekstra invested $150,000 in the ad and his fund-raising has exponentially increased while gaining national attention.  The backbiting from Republicans may represent jealousy and intra-party squabbles.  Moreover, FNN commentator Lou Dobbs thought that “People that are concerned about a racial implication of some sort are missing the point entirely... This is about the results and consequences of public policy choices [and] “I think that Hoekstra is doing a terrific job at defining that.”   But the supercharged cries of racism seems to track the tact which the Democrat establishment is taking to its opponents, as epitomized by the recent kerfluffle with Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ).


Voices in the media, as well as some dissenters from the Republican party, have criticized the alleged racist depictions in the ad.  Hoekstra is not chagrined by criticism about the commercial.  Hoekstra invested $150,000 in the ad and his fund-raising has exponentially increased while gaining national attention.  The backbiting from Republicans may represent jealousy and intra-party squabbles.  Moreover, FNN commentator Lou Dobbs thought that “People that are concerned about a racial implication of some sort are missing the point entirely... This is about the results and consequences of public policy choices [and] “I think that Hoekstra is doing a terrific job at defining that.”   But the supercharged cries of racism seems to track the tact which the Democrat establishment is taking to its opponents, as epitomized by the recent kerfluffle with Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ).

Not all political ads during the Super Bowl were overtly partisan.  Chrysler sponsored a two minute advertisement narrated by  conservative icon Clint Eastwood suggesting that “It’s Half Time in America”.  The spot seemed more like a Public Service Announcement than a car commercial since only five seconds of the 120 second ad featured auto-making, and no branding was present until the end credits.




In case one argues that Chrysler was applying a high concept ad that soft sells its brand, consider the application of copyrights.  This ad disappeared for several hours from the internet on Monday by a copyright claim from NFL Properties.  It is strange that the NFL was claiming copyright on an advertiser's product.  It is only hypothesis, but since all but the final credits mentioned Chrysler that the end could be chopped off and played as a PSA during NFL games during the fall, which both offers an uplifting public spirited message as well as pleasing the powers that be.

Fiat Chrysler has extra incentive to ingratiate itself to the Obama Administration.  The bridge loan to Chrysler of $4 billion made in late 2008 was written off by the Obama Administration.  Fiat was given the option to make an “Incremental Call Option” to buy 16% more of Chrysler at a reduced price by paying back the US Treasury $3.5 billion. But Chrysler had difficulty obtaining such private loans.  So Obama Energy Secretary indicated that he would grant a $3.5 billion fuel efficiency loan to Chrysler which was actuated by the Fully Integrated Robotic Engine that is a key component in the 2011 Fiat 500.  No wonder why Fiat was trying to make the modern rendition of the topolino sexy, as it facilitated a $3.5 billion loan for a company that only had a $5 billion market share, and now the Italian automaker owns 51% of Chrysler.  In this light, it is understandable why Chrysler produced this “Half Time in America Spot” to celebrate how Obama crony capitalism saved the “American” auto industry and to be a centerpiece President Obama’s  re-election campaign.

Even though American consumers seemingly have a sophistication towards Super Bowl commercials that celebrates innovation and entertainment, the political soft sell Chrysler used in “Half Time in America” calls to mind celebrity huckster P.T. Barnum’s maxim “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

2 comments:

wil robert said...

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El Barroco said...

@ Wil Robert Thanks for the kind words. Hope that you become a regular reader.