Erin Petersen

That was it?

By - Feb 8th, 2010 09:10 am
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TimTebow-2I only watched Super Bowl XLIV for the commercials (I know that sports are an important facet of American culture; they’re just not my thing). This year ( brought to you by Doritos) was a complete groaner to say the least. Save for an appearance by Betty White and Abe Vigoda in that  Snickers commercial and Boost Mobile’s Super Bowl Shuffle remix, the millions of dollars spent in between play time seemed like a waste. Okay, fine — I laughed at the chickens playing pool in the Denny’s spots — since when does Denny’s have so much money?

There were the obligatory Anheuser-Busch spots (the auto-tune one was aiiight), the overly dramatized Coca-Cola mini-features, the ever-loving car commercials (JEEZUS Hyundai, we get it) and one very bizarre Taco Bell ad featuring a rapping(??) Charles Barkley walking through what appears to be the set of Cool World.

Also, if I had to hear Wake Up while watching slo-mo footage of Peyton Manning one more time

And then there was the ad.

I feel as though a collective guffaw went up over the nation moments after the  infamous Tebow commercial aired and took its place as an advertising milestone. It was not the anti-abortion tirade that we were all waiting for … but maybe that was the point. The interwebs lit up with speculation two weeks ago as word spread that CBS was not only reversing its “no advocacy” policy,  but allowing  Focus on the Family to run a 30-second ad that promoted its conservative agenda. We all knew the story by heart before it even hit the airwaves. In 1987 , in the Phillipines where abortion has been illegal since 1870, Pam Tebow was encouraged to abort the child she was carrying (Tim) after she encountered a rare but potentially fatal disorder during her pregnancy. Pam refused because of her faith and miraculously gave birth to a healthy boy who grew up to be an all-star quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner.

It’s a misleading story, but that’s not necessarily the Tebow’s fault.  During her pregnancy, Pam Tebow  contracted amoebic dysentery that put her into a coma. After being treated with a series of medications, she also developed placental abruption, where the placenta separates from the uterine wall and cuts off oxygen to the fetus. She took a huge risk  and luckily everything turned out. The mortality rate for children in cases of placental abruption is 20 to 40 percent. Most are stillborn or die shortly after birth. Mothers often die due to blood loss. Pam Tebow’s story is touching, but  by no means normal. But none of this info was even mentioned in the ad. In fact, the ad was tame, even cartoon-like.  Instead, Focus on the Family disseminated the Tebow’s story prior to air date generating plenty of attention for their agenda. If I were Pam Tebow, I might be a bit miffed at FOtf right now.

I’m fine with advocacy spots. Despite what some groups say, I don’t think that the Super Bowl constitutes “family entertainment,” thus making it impervious to  serious issues.

What bothers me is that no other advocacy groups made an appearance this year — whether that’s because they were rejected by CBS (again) or because they couldn’t pony up the cash, I don’t know. But I would have liked to see a foil to FOTF, at least for the sake of principle.’s attempt was more than likely a publicity stunt. The production quality was poor at best, and part of me believes that it was rejected because the network  couldn’t confirm Mancrunch’s ability to actually pay for the ad. can go to hell. Its ads are seamy, misogynistic and not the least bit clever (Why, Danica Patrick, why?). If GoDaddy did create this ad in earnest, fine. But something tells me the company jumped on the bandwagon at the last minute to garner a few thousand extra hits.

Planned Parenthood, PETA and MoveOn. org are among the more notable (or, at least vocal) organizations to be rejected by CBS for Super Bowl ad time because their messages were deemed too controversial. Planned Parenthood’s entry in 2007 encouraged safe sex through condom use. In 2004, raised questions about President George W. Bush’s projected $1 trillion deficit. In the same year, United Church of Christ’s progressive approach was shot down and PETA parodied 1970’s skin flicks to remind viewers that “meat causes impotence.” In CBS’s defense, the PETA ad was  over the top — even in comparison to some of the sleazy beer ads that reign supreme on game day. (Personally, I think PETA relies too much on overtly sexual representation to push its mission, but that’s a different story.)

I should also point out that these ads were deemed too “offensive” by a network whose No. 1 sitcom replaces comedy with chauvinism and sexual innuendo (Two and a Half Men) and whose top dramas are a montage of violence and dissected body parts (CSI).

The aformentioned ads  were promoting concepts — safe sex , food activism, political dissent, tolerance — that were all very taboo during the G.W. Bush years.  And during the most-watched sports event of the yea,r these groups were silenced.

Now, CBS has suddenly decided to reverse its long-standing policy for a commercial that advocates the fundamentalist values of the Christian Right (and whose founder publicly endorsed Bush in 2004 and McCain in 2008). But the FOTF ad wasn’t making a statement, right? It was just about “celebrating life” …  right?

Categories: Commentary, News

0 thoughts on “ADversary: That was it?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The ads that were deemed “offensive” were designed to be deemed offensive, that way the organizations that made them could get all kinds of free press without having to shell out the millions for the slot. The United Church of Christ has been successfully playing the game for years.

    Hard to blame CBS when the organizations by-in-large want the ads to be denied.

    GoDaddy’s scheme is somewhat similar, as the entire plan is to run an over-the-top ad that makes you talk about how terrible it was, without criticizing GoDaddy’s service.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You make a good point, Jeramey. It’s an easy way for organizations to get a lot of attention without footing the $2.5 million bill. However, this isn’t true with all organizations. presented a pretty benign ad (children playing, Americana-type stuff) that directly questioned Bush. Planned Parenthood wasn’t trying to shock anyone. There’s a lot of airtime (outside of the Super Bowl) devoted to pro-life messages and very little devoted to safe sex advocates (though that have made great gains with print ads).

  3. Anonymous says:

    I would disagree that there is very little advertising devoted to safe sex advocates. On many of the cable channels, Trojan and other condom makers are very present. Granted some of the ads focus on the “pleasure” side of the item, but many do have the obligatory safe-sex message of preventing STDs and pregnancy. I found the Tebow ad to be much ado about nothing, and now I’m laughing at the feminists who are up in arms that Tim tackled his mom in the spot. Lighten up ladies, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I wouldn’t say it was much ado about nothing. No matter how benign the resulting ad may seem, FOTF’s preceding PR campaign framed the Tebow’s story within the context of their very conservative ideal, so we all know what this ad was promoting. That tackle was like something out of Looney Tunes.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The huge PR preceding the ad was driven by Planned Parenthood, NOW, etc. No one would have paid attention if they hadn’t complained and no one watching that ad would have figured out it was anything more than an ad promoting families without the hype by the left.

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