When I think of the Super Bowl, things that come to mind include: chicken wings, nachos, beer, (followed by indigestion), the half-time show, big burly men and derogatory ads about women.
I’m sure I’m not alone on that last one. When are the Super Bowl ad execs going to catch on to the fact that women watch the Super Bowl, too, and not just for the half-time show?
According to a recent survey by Advertising Age, 55 percent of American women watched at least one regular season NFL game last season, and women account for 20 percent of all fantasy football participants. In the last 10 years, the gender gap in the Super Bowl audience has narrowed from 14 percentage points in 2002 to between 54 and 46 percent in 2012. This means more women are watching the Super Bowl than the Academy Awards! And George Clooney attends those!
While the NFL itself has done a great job of becoming more female- as well as family-friendly, the advertising industry has lagged behind. This is pretty ridiculous considering that women are the primary shopping decision-makers when it comes to 85 percent of household purchases. Kim Bates of Ad Age coined it perfectly: “The experts theorize that women feel ignored by marketers during Super Bowl, and even worse, are offended by the content of Super Bowl ads for whom the target audience appears to be the members of your local Sigma Nu chapter.” (It does often feel like advertising agencies only used a fraternity house as a focus group, doesn’t it?)
Listen: We know sex sells, and that those Victoria Secret ads are considered to be part of the American pastime, but many of the ads — like anything by GoDaddy.com or the Teleflora ad featuring Adriana Lima — stress that if you buy a woman flowers her guaranteed thank you will be sex. And let’s not forget good ol’ Doritos. In last year’s ad, a beautiful girl couldn’t get her boyfriend’s attention away from football and Doritos until she covered her naked body in the snack chip. Watch it below.
That’s not only wrong, but just really, really, icky. And now, there’s the story about how a veteran Baltimore Ravens cheerleader says she wasn’t included on the squad’s Super Bowl roster this year because of a slight weight gain. Doesn’t exactly improve the image that the Super Bowl isn’t just about women being nice things to look at, does it?
Plus, advertisers should know that it is women who are making these ads go viral and promoting them more than men. According to PHD Media, more women (46 percent) than men (36 percent) plan to share ads they like on social media. The same goes for watching ads online, with 55 percent of women saying they do versus 47 percent of men.
Still, it seems like advertisers are beginning to wake up from this type of male-chauvinistic coma, with experts saying that advertisers are being challenged to find a way to embrace female sexuality without degrading women. Last year, Super Bowl XLVI TV broadcast drew 111.5 million viewers; 51 million of whom were women. “Especially given the female viewership, advertisers have to be broadly acceptable without being polarizing,” said Tim Calkins, marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
On the other hand, if we learned anything from the year that was Fifty Shades of Grey and Magic Mike, women are clearly not against sexuality — so long as it is done in the right way.
“Today women are increasingly owning their sexuality for themselves and thus women, particularly younger women, have little problem seeing empowering female sex appeal used in advertising,” said Emnos consultant Leah Wawrzyniak. PHD Media found that 69 percent of women ages 18-59, and 74 percent of women ages 18-34, said that they like the sexy imagery in Super Bowl advertising. If anything, women are embracing sexuality (especially if Channing Tatum is involved).
But above all, women appreciate clever commercials. Sixty-eight percent of women ranked wit and humor as the No. 1 attribute that makes a Super Bowl enjoyable. Not surprisingly, cute animals came in at No. 2. (Clearly these are the Puppy Bowl fans.)
We still have a long way to go, but the fact that this year marks the revival of the Diet Coke “hunk” ad is definitely a good sign for all women.
Do you get offended by Super Bowl ads each year? Tell us in the comments.