What Does Your America Look Like? Super Bowl Ads Challenge Each Other

coca-cola-super-bowl

Another year, another Super Bowl on the books. This year, the Seattle Seahawks took home the Vince Lombardi Trophy while the Denver Broncos were…well, not playing too much football. Though I love Peyton Manning as much as the next football fan, yesterday’s lackluster performance really gave the commercials a chance to take center stage (as if they weren’t already trying to do that anyway).

So what did all those rich advertisers have to offer this time around? In a word: AMERICA. Whether you believe it means “tradition” or “diversity,” ‘Merica was a hot topic this year, and Coca-Cola and Chrysler went head to head with their takes on what it means to be proud of your country.

In the automobile corner, Chrysler enlisted the help of folk crooner Bob Dylan to tug on the heartstrings of every engine-owning football fan in the U.S. of A. This two-minute spot served up a heavy helping of good old-fashioned Americana and paired it with a dose of Buying-American-is-Good-for-America rhetoric.

Mr. Dylan has long been known for his fine lyricism, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say someone else crafted this duesy of an opening line for him: “Is there anything more American than America?”

Well, Bob, we’re gonna have to go with “No” on that one. The ad then goes on to show snippets of diners, baseball, farmhouses, horses, and a few dudes playing basketball. After telling us that American ingenuity can’t be imported, Bob proudly states “Detroit made cars, and cars made America,” and that, “making the best, making the finest takes conviction.”

Ok, sounds like a plan—if we want to support business in America, we need to have the conviction to buy American. Our dollars will make a difference if they stay in America. Got it.

But wait, what’s that, Bob? In case you missed it the first time, allow me to go ahead and underline this one for you. Just after the spiel about American pride, some shortsighted marketing genius approved this script:

“So let Germany brew your beer; let Switzerland make your watch; let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car.”

Sorry, what? Bob Dylan just talked my ear off about buying American for two minutes, then promptly turns right around and tells me to send my beer money and labor jobs abroad. Um, ok…so while I must buy my car from America, those other industries can suck it because, hey, they don’t do that in Detroit. Sorry to every growing microbrewery in the country, all of these American watchmakers (one of which is actually based in Detroit), and every factory worker in America who lost or is still fearing his or her job—you should have been an American car company.

On the other side of the coin, we have Coca-Cola, the huge multinational company that’s fresh off an Olympic advertising controversy. Coke’s 2014 Super Bowl ad took the “Go America!” message in a decidedly different direction, one that highlights the nation’s unique cultural landscape. It’s a 60-second ad of people singing “America the Beautiful,” only it’s not completely in English (gasp!) Over a half-dozen languages are heard as we see clips of people from a variety of races, ages, sexual orientation, and dress going about their lives and smiling at the camera. It’s short, sappy, and to the point, and oh did some Americans loathe it.

While many folks, including Alaskan Congresswoman Lisa Murkowski, praised the ad for its celebration of the melting pot that is our country, others saw it as an attack on patriotism and the English (“American!”) language. There’s nothing like reminding conservative-minded, old-school Americans that they’re not the only ones here to get the xenophobic rants a-blazin’.

As they say, however, the more things change, the more things stay the same. In case you were worried about too much progress on the advertising front, you know we can always rely on at least one light beer company to play into outdated gender stereotypes. Enter Bud Light, who offered up a multi-part advertising extravaganza featuring some guy who didn’t know what was happening at all.

The entire “film” lasts just under four minutes and starts with Joe Schmo offering to go along with whatever some pretty young lady wants him to do in exchange for a Bud Light. He is game, and they waltz outside to a limo full of props—er, attractive women—that he assumes is a bachelorette party. He then gets styled by Minka Kelly, runs into Don Cheadle and a llama in an elevator, and struts into a party full of more pretty women, only this time, they’re all twins. Because this male fantasy is so nice, they had to have it twice.

Wrapping things up, he plays—and beats—a wig-wearing Arnold Schwarzenegger in ping-pong, then parties all night with the band One Republic and a slew of drunk, happy strangers.

Joe Schmo suddenly becomes the poster child for going with the flow, as long as your flow involves lots of hot women and fizzy beer-water.

Luckily, at least one brand championed females for being more than pretty props in beer ads, though it’s worth noting they did need a giant corporate check from Intuit to get in front of the Super Bowl audience. You may remember GoldieBlox from their viral “Girls” marketing campaign earlier this fall. Though they raised some legal flags for using the Beastie Boys song without permission, this time they went with a parody of “Come on Feel the Noise,” which was popularized in the 1980s by Quiet Riot. GoldiBlox’s version went like this:

“Come on ditch your toys,

Girls make some noise.

More than pink, pink, pink

We want to think.”

And so on. Little girls are seen pulling off their tiaras and building a rocket to launch all their girlie pink toys into space. According to the company website, GoldieBlox’s mission is to disrupt the princess-grooming culture around raising young girls by giving them educational and empowering toys designed especially for them. It’s an engineer’s war on pink, and the mission helped CEO Debbie Sterling win the most votes out of 15,000 small business that were in the running for a $4 million Super Bowl ad spot, courtesy of Intuit.

With now two well-produced ads under their belt and a presumed Super bump in sales, we’re looking forward to seeing how GoldieBlox performs over the next few years. Perhaps they’ll even be able to pay for a Super Bowl ad themselves.

So, what was your favorite Super Bowl ad of 2014? Did any of them rub you the wrong way? Tell us in the comments below if this year’s ads left you inspired, bored, or wanting more.

~

Jacqlyn Mori is a vagabond who hails from the great state of New Jersey. She is a writer, yoga instructor, and the owner of a small apparel business called Karma Warrior Clothes. She is also a big eater, drinker, and traveler. Her best days are when all three of those activities coincide. You can see what she’s up to by checking on the blog she doesn’t post to often enough. Feel free to bug her if you’d like to read more. 

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