Super Bowl XLIIII commercials from three ad agencies promoted three dissimilar products and all using the same theme.
Tom Shales of the Washington Post named the “oddly recurring theme” of the Super commercials “the perpetual male fear of emasculation.”
The Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review 2010 Results by Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker called this “creative theme … the domestication of the American man.”
I saw them as simply bizarre with themes of castration and impotence at the hands of women, not women in general but very specifically their wife/girlfriend.
Calkins and Rucker suggest “compelling research” backs up the “insight that men in the United States are feeling weak and powerless.” They offer unemployment and economic indices as specifies. (http://kelloggsuperbowlreview.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/kellogg-super-bowl-advertising-review-2010-results/).
Well, maybe that explains the theme of emasculation. Two other ads could be lumped in that category. One featured men wandering around fields dressed in their underwear. And then another spotlighted only one man, sleepwalking in his underwear, on his search for a Coke. Those guys looked pretty weak to me.
But what about those that blamed women for feeling powerless?
“Were these ads for a post-feminist age?” Shales asked and then answered, “They seemed to have a retro appeal – for better and worse. Probably worse.”
A retrograde synapse was sure triggered in my mind as the theme emerged – it recalled the 1970s perfume commercial of a woman who promises to “bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never never never let you forget you’re a man.”( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X4MwbVf5OA)
Yep, worse than retro, back then the theory was that sex sells. Neuromarketing holds sway today and finds that fear sells much better.
So although virility is deeply linked to wealth – or as Aristotle Onassis said, “If women didn’t exist all the money in the world would have no meaning,” – that doesn’t seem quite the message of the emasculation commercials.
And fear of domestication? Please. Marriage remains a much greater benefit to men than women – after all, who wouldn’t want someone to bring home the bacon, cook it up in a pan, and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera?
No, a few of these spots have the feel of the stuff of nightmares – the same fears of – dare I say it – women that prompted Germaine Greer to warn us, around the same time the bacon perfume was hitting the airwaves, “Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.”