retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

As I was watching Super Bowl XLVII last night - and, of course, the commercials, I was simultaneously reading the blog postings on the Wall Street Journal website that analyzed the commercials.

I liked a lot of the same commercials as many people - the Tide commercial about the stain that resembles Joe Montana, the Taco Bell ad with old people on the town, and, of course, the Budweiser commercial about a man and his Clydesdale. I even sort of liked the Go Daddy commercial ... it was a little disgusting, but I felt good for Walter, who had the best 30 seconds of his life. (Over and over, apparently ... shooting the commercial required multiple takes.) But it was funny.

The game started with a Best Buy commercial starring Amy Poehler as a ditzy shopper needing lots of technology assistance, and it made me laugh. (I think she'd probably be funny reading the phone book.) But Cindy Gallop, a former ad executive who was one of the bloggers, observed the following:

Oh, BestBuy. Women are the majority of your customers and influence 90% of all electronics purchases. Last year your ad depicted a line-up of mobile tech inventors & entrepreneurs - all men. This year its misuse of the wonderful Amy Poehler as classic 'ditzy female customer'. How many women were involved in the making of that ad?

And that made me think.

I'm not sure that the Super Bowl is necessarily the best place to judge sexism in marketing. After all, marketers probably figure that it is largely a male audience tuning in, though I suspect it is the football game watched by more women than any other game during the season.

But, I do think that industry has to be careful about how to talks to its customers, especially at a time when bloggers can analyze their messages ad nauseum, and the commercials can be seen over and over on the internet.

After reading the Best Buy criticism, I saw the Doritos "princess" ad a little differently. (Was this slotting little girls into a traditional way of thinking?) I started thinking differently about the Go Daddy ad. (How come the girl is the beauty and the guy is the brains?) I wondered how come no girls got picked for the football team in the Hyundai commercial. In the Mercedes commercial, why was Willem Dafoe's Satan tempting a guy, not a woman?

Now, I'm not trying to be a scold here. There is a point where legitimate criticism can cross over into being humorless, and I certainly think there is room for irreverent humor in the world of marketing. (I'm trying to figure out why people thought the Volkswagen commercial with the guys using a Jamaican accent was so offensive, for example.)

I just think that it is worth thinking about these things. Because humor and insensitivity don't necessarily go hand in hand.

A final thought here about the commercials...

The ads made me want to see Star Trek Into Darkness even more. Iron Man 3 and World War Z look terrific. And I can't believe that the next Fast and the Furious movie will be the sixth in the series? When did that happen?

It's all an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: