On Sunday night, about 110 million people turned on their TVs to watch a series of lavish, expensively produced 30-second skits interspersed with live footage of men throwing a ball around. Fox Sports charged up to $4.5 million for each ad spot this year, with companies like Anheuser-Busch, Chevrolet, and Pepsi coughing the record-breaking figure.
But one of the most notable ads was created by a 15-person tech startup called GoldieBlox, which makes engineering toys for little girls. The San Francisco-based company announced four days ago that it won Intuit’s Small Business, Big Game challenge, landing one of the year’s most coveted advertising spots.
(GoldieBlox’s Super Bowl ad also helps distract from its legal battle with the Beastie Boys, who are suing the company for using an unauthorized parody of “Girls.” The Super Bowl ad played a cover of “Cum Feel The Noize” by Slade that was, presumably, licensed and paid for.)
It’s extremely unusual for such a small company to advertise during the Super Bowl, but what makes GoldieBlox’s spot, which features a hoard of little girls turning their boring pink toys into a rocket and launching it into space, especially interesting is that it serves as an antidote to the outrageous sexism constantly on display in each Super Bowl’s commercials. Of course, it also gives Intuit a chance to boost its image without having to figure out how to make a commercial about tax software interesting.
The misogyny in Super Bowl is so egregious that advocacy group The Representation Project actually made an app to help viewers send complaints directly to the companies responsible.
It’s still too early to tell which ads will make this year’s list of the worst offenders, but based on Twitter reactions, SodaStream and Volkswagen are in the running to earn that dubious distinction. Here’s a list of last year’s creepiest spots, including Carl’s Jr’s desperate attempt to make fish sandwiches sexy.
But the tide may be turning as the gap between male and female Super Bowl viewers narrows each year. For example, GoDaddy.com, one of last year’s top offenders, dramatically changed its tone with this year’s commercial. Hopefully more companies will figure out how to make attention-grabbing ads without resorting to crass stereotypes.