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Category: Art and Entertainment, Economy, Media Monitoring, Sports

Mythological Minorities? Animals, Aliens, and Talking Cars Have More Representation than Women and M

February 8, 2011

While it may have been the first Superbowl in history without skimpily clothed cheerleaders prancing the sidelines, fans didn’t have to grieve their absence for long. With Kim Kardashian’s steamy “personal training session” for Skecher’s Shape-Ups and the always-popular and product-irrelevant girls, you didn’t need to look far for misogynistic portrayals of women in Superbowl advertising.

This past Sunday, Super Bowl advertisers shelled out $3 million per 30 second spot to feature their best in show commercials consisting of characteristically strong sexist, racist, and white centered themes. An informal content analysis done in-house showed that out of the 49 product advertisements shown during Super Bowl XLV (not including NFL spots, television promotions, and movie trailers) women were included in 68%. Not a bad showing until you consider that women had speaking roles in only 17 commercials and were most often portrayed as accessories and background scenery. Additionally, while men were counted as 149 characters, there were only 53 females shown.

Surely this difference must correlate to Super Bowl viewership?

Not true, according to last year’s Nielsen report on minority demographics. There were 106.5 million viewers in 2010’s game, 45% of them female.  While the official report for this year’s game is not yet out, preliminary reports state that Super Bowl XLV had 111 million viewers. Since the total number of females watching the game has grown 17% in the last 5 years, we can assume that at least 45% of viewers this past Sunday were women.

Of course women weren’t the only ones wrongly and under-represented. White men outnumbered black men by more than six to one and white women outnumbered black women by 35%. One of the few (three to be exact) commercials that featured black characters caused quite a stir with its promotion of negative stereotypes. Pepsi’s “Love Hurts” commercial perpetuates the angry black woman myth by showing a black woman continually batter her husband when she catches him cheating on his diet.

Blacks didn’t even come in second to whites in commercial involvement. Animals did. 15% of characters counted in the analysis were of the animal variety, only 9% were black. This is better than the non-existence of other minority groups: five Asians, one Latino, and one Indian were counted for a total of eight; a number nearly half that of the mythological creatures shown (aliens, dragons, trolls, and the like) and certainly less than the personified inanimate objects such as talking cars.

In an interview on Screen Rant, Josh Rogers, Creative Director at Imagination, said about Super Bowl advertising: “The Super Bowl is the time and place for big new brand ideas–not for selling direct.  It’s like the opportunity to set the record straight, take a chance, set a new course.” If this is an advertiser’s moment to shine and set a new course, one has to wonder – where does that leave women and minorities in their plans for the future? Adding to this thought, President and Chief Creative Officer at The Geppetto Group, Chris McKee revealed, “We misread and misrepresented what’s going on in America today more than in any Super Bowl in history.”

Let’s hope that next year advertisers think to include a better representation of our culture.