business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

Each year, Super Bowl advertisers trot out the iconic Clydesdales, adorable puppies, and all those guys starring in some funny, some sophomoric and yes, some sexist, ad campaigns. Hence the phrase: Super Bowl So Male.

I’ve always thought this “bro-centric” marketing approach during America’s top-rated TV broadcast was short-sighted, given that roughly 45 percent of all NFL fans are female. Women comprised 49 percent of the 103 million viewers tuned into last year’s Super Bowl, and a study found they paid more attention to the ads and the game itself than their male counterparts on the other side of the chip and dip bowl.

On screen, Super Bowl ads where women played a significant role fell from 42 percent in 2017 to 34 percent last year, while men were prominent in 72 percent of the ads, according to the research firm ABX.

Finally, and happily, this Sunday’s telecast of Super Bowl VIII will be different. Previews show that three ads – from Bumble, Olay and Toyota – are bucking the “bro” trend. The featured females will not be the long-suffering wife of the frozen food porn addict, as seen in the Kraft-Devour clip shown on MNB this week, or a bikini-clad babe in a Carl’s Jr. fast food ad.

The early favorite for female empowerment MVP goes to Bumble, the social networking/dating app that has women make the first move. A teaser for the brand’s first-ever Super Bowl commercial introduces its #InHerCourt campaign Global Ambassador, tennis megastar Serena Williams. There is no mention of dating when Serena not-so-serenely states: “We’re living in a world and society where people are starting to see differently and starting to understand that we are just as strong and just as smart and just as savvy and just as businesslike as any other male in this world.”

Olay skin care is also debuting its first Super Bowl ad, a scary spoof starring Sarah Michelle Gellar - known for her roles in Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and the TV series, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” - aimed at women only. Olay exec Stephanie Robertson said the Procter & Gamble brand was surprised when learning about the dearth of women in Super Bowl ads versus the viewership numbers, “and we wanted to take on this disparity.”

Based on the available teasers and ads, my favorite is the Toyota 2019 RAV4 Hybrid commercial featuring 22-year-old college football player Antoinette “Toni” Harris, whose goal is to become the NFL’s first female player. Trust me, you will be rooting for this free safety within 15 seconds.

I think there are business lessons here beyond just the 30- to 60-seconds of hype on Super Bowl Sunday. In this era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, brands and marketers should be keenly aware of gender equity in advertising campaigns. Men and women are running companies and doing the laundry, and brands that fail to recognize the new order are potentially missing 50 percent of the market.

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