There's an Easy Way to Score Sexism in Super Bowl Commercials

An annual tweetup timed to the big game asks viewers to rate how brands represent women.

A 2015 Carl's Jr. ad with Charlotte McKinney. (Photo: Commercials/YouTube)

Jan 27, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

What's more quintessential about the Super Bowl: the football or the advertisements?

During Sunday's big game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, a group of prominent advertising agencies want to ensure that viewers are keeping a careful eye on the commercials—and not just for the reasons you might expect.

Five ad agencies across the country are participating in an annual Super Bowl tweetup to monitor the way women are represented on-screen during the most watched TV event of the year. The mission? To tell advertisers that sexism doesn't sell.

Co-organized by the Representation Project and The 3% Conference—both of which advocate for women in the media—the Super Bowl Tweetup will use the hashtags #3PercentSB and #NotBuyingIt for ads that portray women poorly and #MediaWeLike for ads that do the opposite. Last year's Super Bowl Sunday campaign reached 2.5 million viewers in more than 10 countries, who responded to commercials from Amazon, Barbie, Volkswagen, and Go Daddy.

Carl's Jr. ad. (Photo: Commercials/YouTube)

Web-hosting company Go Daddy has been trying to clean up its image after coming under fire for a racy 2013 Super Bowl ad in which supermodel Bar Refaeli made out with a nerdy computer engineer for the company's "smart meets sexy" campaign. In the commercial, the engineer was smart; Refaeli was sexy. Go Daddy's ad this year apparently does away with gender sterotypes altogether, instead relying on another, less controversial trope: cute puppies.

According to Ad Age, advertisers spend up to $8 million on a 60-second commercial during the annual game, which last year drew nearly 100 million viewers, making it the fifth-most-watched Super Bowl ever.

Of those dedicated viewers, nearly half are women, according to a National Football League report indicating that women make up 45 percent of its overall fan base. It's no wonder ad agencies including DDB in Chicago, The Hive Advertising in San Francisco, R/GA in New York, TRG in Dallas, and Clear Labs in St. Petersburg are hosting in-person tweetup events at their agencies this year.

"Ads that appeal to women as opposed to alienating them are likely to be a much better return on a $4.5 million price-tag. And that's just good for business," DDB's group creative director, Jean Batthany, said in a statement.

Viewers who don't live in those five cities can rate Super Bowl commercials at home by downloading a scorecard from The 3% Conference's website. The scorecard offers three rating options—touchdown, fumble, and sack—for 30 commercials from brands including Budweiser, Carl's Jr., and Coca-Cola.

This year, Budweiser is looking to please crowds by continuing its puppy-themed commercials, which reportedly inspired Go Daddy's spoof. Meanwhile, Carl's Jr. is continuing a tradition of its own: using nearnaked women to sell burgers. It might be an understatement to predict that its Super Bowl commercial starring model Charlotte McKinney will score a "fumble" among viewers.

Coca-Cola is aiming for a touchdown with its refreshing commercial starring Go Daddy spokesperson Danica Patrick. "I think the Internet can be a place for positive change just as much as it is for negative," the professional race car driver says in the ad.

It ends with the statement "The Internet is what we make it."

If Coca-Cola's new campaign is any indication, the women behind the Super Bowl Tweetup would agree.