Tackles, Flowers, and Sex
by Brandi Gil,
Over 111 million Americans watched Super Bowl XLVI this month. That’s more than a third of the country’s entire population. And in between touchdowns and tackles, those same football fans tuned in to the highly anticipated Super Bowl commercials. Some usual suspects who have traditionally aired Super Bowl commercials veered away from previous strategies of objectifying women to promote interest in their product.
Remember last year’s Skechers commercial? It featured Kim Kardashian coquettishly leading viewers to believe she had just concluded a sex session with her handsome trainer, telling him “you were the best I ever had,” then leaving him for Skechers’ new Shape-Ups shoes. This year, Skechers shifted its communications strategy, sending the sexual overtones to the dogs — literally. Their spot featured a Greyhound race with a bulldog “underdog” winning while sporting Skechers on his little moon-walking doggy feet. The spot caught the attention of viewers and garnered favorable reviews from both men and women.
And although several auto manufacturers and snack companies made us laugh this year, not all advertisers shifted messaging strategies from sexual innuendo to comedic blatancy. Super Bowl viewers were hit with a huge dose of sex-charged commercials. A crop of advertisers surfaced exposing onlookers to sexy commercials that had some men salivating, some women offended, and some pre-teens blushing.
One spot that caused a stir was brought to us by online flower company Teleflora. The spot stars Victoria’s Secret supermodel Adriana Lima. After slowly pulling her stocking up her extended leg, zipping her sleeveless black dress and touching up her lipstick, she looks into the camera and speaks directly to the male audience saying: “Guys, Valentine’s Day is not that complicated. Give and you shall receive.”
Women voiced reactions from mild annoyance to outrage for what they called an overtly sexist commercial. Twitter accounts buzzed and social media comments rang out comparing the character in the commercial to a hooker and clarifying — for the record — that flowers will not equate to sex. But plenty of men had opinions about the commercial too, and were not shy about sharing them. Here are some interesting ones from YouTube.
In response to the “haters,” one post read: “All hot women cause the normal red-blooded male to think about sex… hell even desire it. That’s like blaming GM, Chrysler, and Ford for car crashes.” Another entry read: “Yeah I’ll be buying my wife flowers for Valentine’s Day. Hopefully by giving I’ll receive something too.” Yet another comment read: “Don’t watch the commercial if it bothers you. The rest of us real men will continue to enjoy the commercial, probably buy their woman some flowers, and then enjoy the rest of the evening getting laid!” And I don’t want to leave out this infamous comment: “If watching the commercial makes you feel bad about yourself, then do something about it!”
No matter how much the comments make the mildly feminist cringe, these attitudes exist. Teleflora tapped into it. The originators of these YouTube messages did not pay $3.5 million for a 30-second spot to broadcast their views, but they were able to transmit their messages to the masses. You can bet that Teleflora is tuned in, observing with satisfaction the ongoing comments and chatter as their online flower orders increase.
Buzz did not just result from the message delivery via purchased airtime and social media, but also from the news coverage that followed. For days after the Super Bowl, we saw headlines like “The Smoldering Hot Super Bowl Teleflora Ad” and “Sexy Ad Stirs Controversy.” Conversations ensued on news and lifestyle programs. Politics, health, the economy, natural disasters and crime stories were trumped by Teleflora’s Adriana Lima and her sexy suggestion to the men of America.
Gender influence in media was evident in the commercials, news coverage and online chatter. Through the visual medium of television, the spot apparently elicited a physical reaction for some. The message became not only what was enacted in the commercial — but the reaction of those seeing it.
Could these commercials be working to condition women into believing what their role as women should be? Could they be attempting to condition men into believing what they should be getting from women? Some say it’s all a form of audience manipulation. Yet others say the commercials simply reflect the real attitudes and desires of the audience that is watching.
Whether the former is true or the latter, the Teleflora commercial tapped into an emotional place for both men and women. And isn’t that what a commercial is supposed to do?