Super Bowl Ads Promote Sexist Attitudes, Offensive Behavior

Offenders: Audi, CBS, GoDaddy, Kia

Media Outlet: CBS; ads aired during Super Bowl on 2/3/13

The Offense: Selling products using gender stereotypes, sexual exploitation, objectified women and gratuitous violence

NOW’s Analysis: By now, Super Bowl ad watchers have grown accustomed to GoDaddy producing one of the most shamelessly exploitative commercials every year. The internet company faithfully uses blatant sexual come-ons involving well-known women to brew up controversy before the game and draw viewers onto its website afterward.

This year GoDaddy added an off-the-chart discomfort factor to its standard formula, with a lengthy and loud kiss between “sexy” model Bar Refaeli and “smart” Walter. The ad relied on the tired old cliche that women embody sex while geeky men are the epitome of intelligence. And it reveled in the visual mismatch the two created. Thankfully, GoDaddy was rewarded for its efforts with the lowest score in USA Today’s “Ad Meter” survey.

Several other ads went over the top — for example CBS’s own promo for “2 Broke Girls,” which featured the two stars as pole dancers, and KIA’s “Hot Bots” ad depicting women as butt-kicking robots. Other questionable ads could be called out, but let’s get to our candidate for loser of the night: Audi.

The automaker presented a slick 60-second spot that had the look and feel of a movie. A teenage boy headed to prom by himself is granted the keys to dad’s Audi, which apparently has the power to turn him into a daredevil. What does he choose to do with his newfound confidence? Why, storm into the dance and grab the prom queen for a surprise kiss, of course.

We’re clearly supposed to think how cool he is, how deserving he must be after suffering the humiliation of attending prom solo (he’s a geek like Walter, right?). The look on the prom queen’s face says it all — wow, what a stud! Does she want to slap him? Heck no. It’s her boyfriend who’s offended (she’s HIS, after all), and he goes after the supposed hero, who drives away with a black eye, invigorated and validated.

The ad ends with the tagline “Bravery. It’s What Defines Us.” This message is not only nonsense, it’s dangerous. Sorry, Audi, but women’s bodies are not the proving ground for men’s machismo, their self-esteem. This ad perpetuates an age-old myth that needs to be put to rest. No, men are not entitled to “take” women as a prize or as solace. It is not “brave” to steal a kiss from an unsuspecting woman or girl. And it’s outrageous to produce a commercial that cheers on such an act. How about this for a tagline?: “Sexism. It’s What Disgusts Us.”

Take Action: Tell Audi what you think about their Super Bowl ad. Since they don’t have a specific link for comments about advertising, we recommend scrolling down to below the second subhead and clicking on “Email an Audi Product Specialist.” Start here.

Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director

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