When Super Bowl Ads Are So Wrong They’re Right (But Are They?)

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A couple weeks ago I addressed the matter of the Burger King Whopper Sacrifice, and how it positioned itself to be an incredibly successful campaign regardless of the public’s actual response to the ad.


This week, PETA has made public their Super Bowl ad that was refused by NBC, as the “suggestive” nature of the advertisement proved to be too risqué for America’s biggest night in television.  With scantily clad women and provocatively placed vegetables, PETA wanted to convey the message that vegetarians have better sex.  Whether their evidence is scientific or anecdotal, the extreme visualization of a women with a bundle of asparagus heading towards her legs pushed NBC’s limits of good taste.


By the time of this posting, PETA had not yet made the 8 edits needed to make the 30-second, $3M spot air-able.  Instead, the commercial has gone to YouTube and advertising experts abound are having a field day discussing the salacious ad.


Now, here’s the thing with juxtaposing the PETA commercial with the Whopper Sacrifice campaign: the Whopper Sacrifice capitalized on a burgeoning social medium (Facebook) and successfully exploited the superficial nature of our online “friendships,” whereas PETA looked to take the easy way out by selling sex to a very receptive market (beer-drinking, football-watching, party-throwing, fun-having revelers).


Oddly enough, the vegetarian spot was set to target a demographic that stereotypically indulges in pigs-in-a-blanket, chili con carne, chicken wings and more.  Could the submission of this commercial, which would almost certainly be turned away by the host network, be a ploy to get the same publicity out there without the hefty price tag of actually airing the spot?


While I don’t mean to imply that PETA is nefariously looking to reap the benefits of a Super Bowl ad campaign without paying the price for it, there are certain actions PETA has taken that might prove they are shrewder than people have given them credit for.  Such as:


  1. If PETA were interested in still airing the spot during the Super Bowl, they wouldn’t have released the uncensored version for public consumption, as the bulk of Super Bowl commercial impact is in not having seen anything like it before…
  2.  PETA, not NBC, made public the fact that the ad was too sexy for TV.  Though it’s had other sexy campaigns before, such as their “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” signage, the innuendo of this spot was blatant, and arguably distastefully done.  Why publicize their own negatively critiqued work if they weren’t planning on putting that critique out there to begin with?
  3. We’re in a recession and not airing the ad during prime Super Bowl time would save them $3M.  Without having shown the spot, they’re still garnering all the attention of the campaign by making the naughty commercial and the criticisms thereof public.


Seems like it’s very possible that PETA was trying to milk this for what it’s worth.  And yes, the pun was intended.


Here is the biggest question to come out of this particular commercial, in tandem with the success of the Whopper Sacrifice, and that’s to wonder whether the motivations of the advertising should influence what we determine success to be.  What if PETA was trying to play the self-inflated Super Bowl advertising phenom to its advantage?  And if it succeeded?  How bad would that be?


Though we consciously know better, we like to believe that there is truth in advertising.  I, however, like to believe that there’s an admirable way to advertise, and that we should credit companies whose campaigns that offer a degree of honesty with their solicitations.


I mean, if Super Bowl advertisements are no longer sacred, what is?


Jackie for AMP3pr.com



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