It’s been said that the Super Bowl has become more about the commercials than the game itself. We’re not judging, but given the caliber of play in the NFL this season we’re guessing this will be more true this year than in previous years. And as the NFL’s popularity declines (over-saturation, poor play and an increasing number of people simply not wanting to endorse head concussions and steroid use have led to a decrease in ratings this year), the NFL may in fact rely even more on the value of commercials during the Super Bowl to gain traction and revenues. We thought this was a great year to take a look at why the “entertainment element” of the Super Bowl commercials is actually unhealthy and even, to a degree, a dangerous (fun) preoccupation.
Yes. The Commercials Are Entertaining.
We’re going to come clean and admit it right now – many of the Postconsumers team watches the Super Bowl (for the game) and more than a few of us enjoy some of the commercials. There’s a reason that you enjoy Super Bowl commercials. The companies producing them spend millions of dollars creating and making them and even more millions of dollars airing them during the Super Bowl. The value of a Super Bowl commercial isn’t just limited to the thirty seconds that it airs on television. It’s inclusive of all of the viral and media attention that it gets afterwards. It’s always been true that a newspaper or news channel talking about a “great” Super Bowl ad after the game itself generated even more publicity and awareness for the company that made it than the airing of the commercial alone did. However, in the era of online video and social media, a good Super Bowl ad can turn into a viral sweep if users find it entertaining enough. And between celebrity appearances, clever writing and amazing film and graphics techniques, these commercials can be extremely entertaining.
Which Brings Us to the First Danger: “Entertaining Consumerism”
We all desire to be entertained. In fact, it was the Roman satirical poet Juvenal who said that all that is required to control the masses is “bread and circuses.” And that type of mind-numbing diversion is dangerous to begin with because, as is suggested in the quote, as long as people are well-fed and entertained they won’t pay attention to the political maneuverings of the powerful. We may debate whether Americans, in particular, are well-fed these days, but we can’t deny that they are inundated with entertainment, and that can be dangerous. But this form of commercials as amusement is particularly risky because it’s being used to indoctrinate the control factor of addictive consumerism. The more you watch and absorb commercials, the more you embrace consumerism as a key social construct.
Don’t Kid Yourself, Consumerism is Social Control
What Juvenal couldn’t imagine when he made his famous quote was that consumerism would also be used as a way to control the “masses” from paying attention to the real issues of concern being manipulated by the powerful. However, that’s exactly what’s happened in the western world (and increasingly in the rest of the world). As long as you are consumed (no pun intended) with the practice of acquiring more and more and more “stuff” you will be regularly numb to social issues. You will also become increasingly isolated from others as you “fill” emotional holes with “things.” Finally, you will be feeding money into the very wealthy and elite people who keep you somewhat oppressed and locked into the state of numbness with bread, circuses and “stuff.” Consumerism is social control, and the Super Bowl commercials are advancing it bigtime.
Did We Just Take This Too Far?
As recently as a year ago, we probably would have said that we don’t need to be so vigilant that we attack Super Bowl commercials as an agent of social control! But much has changed in that year, hasn’t it? These days, we think that we all need to be on guard about the tactics that are being used to further class separation and numb us to social issues. And, to be fair, society’s addictive consumerism has also greatly contributed to the lack of jobs that were cited as a major reason for voting in the last presidential election. The need to produce more while driving cost down has led to automation and offshoring that has led to lower paying jobs and fewer overall jobs. Perhaps we took this argument too far. Perhaps we didn’t. On the current playing field, we’d rather go too far than not far enough.
At The End of the Day, Enjoy the Super Bowl
Enjoy it whether it’s about sports or about commercials! Just enjoy with the thoughtfulness of knowing the “dark side” of both the sport of football and the machinations behind those ads. In a best case scenario, enjoy the Super Bowl with loved ones or friends and have an open discussion about the hidden danger of this massive commercial institution – while enjoying beer and pizza!
Do you watch for the commercials? Confess it to us on the social media channels below!
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Photo Credit: Matt Kadlick via Flickr