Some Super Bowl commercials generate controversy

Jamie Lyons

Nearly 100 million Americans will tune in to see the Super Bowl this Sunday on CBS, according to the network. Every year, companies spend huge sums of money to air their best and most creative commercials during the event. However, some of this year’s commercials have already been the focus of controversy and discussion.

At the center of one controversy is Focus on the Family, which teamed up with former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow for an anti-abortion commercial to air during the event.

The advertisement is the first of its kind, but viewers may see more like it in the future, said Kristy Reynolds, a professor of marketing.

“CBS used to have a policy to not accept ads like that, but they changed their policy in 2008 to accept ads that advertise opinions,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds added that the Super Bowl “is the place for controversial issues,” because of the number of people that will see the message.

Joe Calamusa, clinical professor of marketing, said companies must make a strategic decision about advertising during the Super Bowl.

“For companies looking for a big splash, the Super Bowl is a good use of funds,” Calamusa said, “But if they spend all of their money for that one reach, they might not have the money for more frequency or reinforcement.”

It seems that the Focus on the Family ad has already garnered more than enough publicity to make the expense worth their while. However, the expense of Super Bowl ad time may be forcing other companies to rethink their strategies.

For example, Pepsi has shifted its advertising focus and will not be airing a commercial this year during the Super Bowl. Reynolds said Pepsi is using more social media and regular television advertisements instead.

“Pepsi has a new strategy focusing on social responsibility, and they are getting attention for not being on the Super Bowl,” Reynolds added.

In addition, social media is playing a major role in the way companies and organizations advertise to the new technology savvy consumer.

“Companies really have to have a special Web site with video clips of their commercials, and it’s all about Facebook and Twitter. Advertisers are getting more bang for their bucks,” Reynolds said.

Advertisers have also begun to push the boundary by using increasingly risqué messages and images in their commercials.

Calamusa said he thinks the effect of this push towards the risqué will be “negligible to none.”

“Advertising is happening all day, everyday,” Calamusa said, “It’s like Shakespeare…Much ado about nothing.”

Jereme Gray, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, completed research that confirms Calamusa’s view.

Gray worked with the College of Communication and Information Sciences to determine the effectiveness of various appeals in Super Bowl commercials from 2001 to 2008, using USA Today’s Ad Meter score. The appeals that he found to be most effective were: availability, company image, satisfaction, superiority and user’s image.

“Sexuality did not drastically alter the effectiveness of ads for a good, and it actually hindered the effectiveness of service ads,” Gray said.

However, there is still a limit as to what CBS will approve. Commercials by godaddy.com and Man Crunch, a dating site for homosexual men, have both been rejected.

But as the American consumer is always changing, the advertisers will adapt. No matter the change, consumers will have the opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy the advertising field day that will entertain the nation this Sunday.