Humor, social messages proliferate at a tame Super Bowl

NFL’s Giants recreated a ‘Dirty Dancing’ scene in a crowd-pleasing advert. (Photo courtesy: Twitter)
Updated 05 February 2018
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Humor, social messages proliferate at a tame Super Bowl

NEW YORK: This year’s Super Bowl ads ran the gamut from tame humor to ... tame messages about social causes.
After a divisive year, advertisers during the Big Game worked overtime to win over audiences with messages that entertained and strove not to offend. The slapstick humor and sexual innuendo that used to be commonplace during Super Bowl ad breaks were nowhere in sight.
Instead, Budweiser , as always the largest advertiser during the game, eschewed the usual puppies and Clydesdales to showcase employees that send water to places in need. Verizon showed people thanking first responders who saved them. And Tide tried to make people laugh (and perhaps forget about its Tide Pod problem ) with a humorous series of ads that starred “Stranger Things’” actor David Harbor.
“This is a year where people are feeling a little frayed around the edges because the divisive political environment on both sides,” said Kelly O’Keefe, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter. “They want to feel like there’s something still good in the world.”
While the Philadelphia Eagles bested the New England Patriots in a nailbiter on the field, advertisers were fighting a similar battle to win over the hearts and minds of viewers. It’s the largest live stage for advertising all year, so advertisers brought their A-game.
Tide took a novel approach with ads each quarter that poked fun at typical Super Bowl ads. Harbor popped up in familiar-looking ads that appear to be about different products: a car, an insurance company, jewelry and Old Spice (another P&G product). The twist? They’re really all Tide ads, because there are no stains on anyone’s clothing.
Tame comedy like the Tide ad was a theme throughout the night. In a year that saw the #MeToo movement shine a spotlight on sexual harassment, the vast majority of ads sill starred men but there weren’t any that focused on scantily-clad women or sexual innuendo, save for an awkwardly dancing — and fully dressed — woman in a Diet Coke ad.
Comedian Keegan Michael-Key cut through complex jargon to put things plainly in a humorous ad for Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. When a restaurant patron is confused by what a “beef-protein gluten-free pate” is, he explains: “It’s a burrito, filled with plants pretending to be meat.”
An Amazon ad showcased different celebrities — including actress Rebel Wilson, actor Anthony Hopkins, singer Cardi B and chef Gordon Ramsay — filling in as the voice of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.
M&M’s featured Danny DeVito as a human M&M. And Mountain Dew and Doritos staged an epic hip-hop lip sync battle between actors Morgan Freeman and Peter Dinklage. The two synced to Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes, respectively.
“There’s a reason so many marketers are using celebrity combined with comedy — because it breaks through the clutter, delivers the message and gets buzz,” said Aaron Shapiro, CEO of ad agency Huge.
An ad for Blacture, rapper Pras’ new media platform, was one of the few ads to make an overtly political statement. It showed an African-American man standing alone on stage with tape over his mouth and a blindfold on his eyes. “Blacture. Be celebrated. Not Tolerated,” text on the screen read. And T-Mobile’s ad showed babies and enlisted Kerry Washington for a voiceover that talked about equality.
“The (T-Mobile) message is terrific but all the way through, if you asked consumers who the ad is for, nobody would know,” said Kimberly Whitler, marketing professor at the University of Virginia.
That kind of attempt to connect brands to social causes was a big theme of the night. Charles Taylor, a marketing professor at Villanova University, said a fifth of all Super Bowl ads featured causes, compared with just 6 percent last year.
Toyota kicked things off by depicting the story of Lauren Woolstencroft, a Paraolympic skier who was born missing her left arm below the elbow as well as both legs below the knees, to promote its Paralympic sponsorship.
Budweiser showcased employees from its Cartersville, Georgia, brewery as they canned water to send to places in need like Puerto Rico and California.
Hyundai showcased its donations to fight pediatric cancer by bringing real Hyundai owners into a room during the pre-game Super Bowl festivities and letting them meet cancer survivors. Hyundai donates each time someone buys one of its cars.
“There’s a lot of research that says millennials really like it when brands link themselves to causes,” said Taylor. “It’s just refreshing for a lot of people to see these unifying types of messages by the advertiser.”
But advertisers can stumble in these efforts when the connection seems tenuous. There was some negative reaction when Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge Ram ad featured a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. The ad, timed to the 50th anniversary of the speech, showed people doing good deeds like giving out food to the needy and rescuing a boy from a fire.
“Everyone was offended,” said Zach Mann, who watched the game in Venice, California, with a group of 15 thirtysomethings. “It seems insensitive. We know it’s Black History Month, but using an American hero to sell a Dodge was offputting. “
Instead, it was the humorous ads like the Tide spots that won that group over.
“Everyone seems to be moving into more comedy, quirky, unique (ideas), which my friends and I all are enjoying way more” than past years, Mann said. “I think we all need more laughter these days.”


Twitter CEO trolled for ‘hate mongering’ against India’s Brahmins

Updated 20 November 2018
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Twitter CEO trolled for ‘hate mongering’ against India’s Brahmins

  • Several prominent Indians accused Jack Dorsey of ‘hate mongering’ against Brahmins
  • Twitter India said the poster was handed to Dorsey by a Dalit activist

NEW DELHI: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has kicked up a social media storm in India after a picture of him with a placard saying “smash Brahminical patriarchy,” referring to the highest Hindu caste, went viral in one of the company’s fastest-growing markets.
The picture, posted on Twitter on Sunday by a journalist who was part of group of women journalists, activists, writers whom Dorsey met during a visit to India last week, had him clutching a poster of a woman holding up a banner with the line that has offended many Indians.
Several prominent Indians, including T.V. Mohandas Pai, a former finance chief of software exporter Infosys, accused Dorsey of “hate mongering” against Brahmins.
“Tomorrow if @jack is given a poster with anti-Semitic messages in a meeting, will his team allow him to hold it up?” Pai tweeted. “Why is that any different? Inciting hate against any community is wrong.”
Twitter India said the poster was handed to Dorsey by a Dalit activist — Dalits are at the bottom of the social hierarchy in Hinduism — when it hosted a closed-door discussion with a group of women to know more about their experience using Twitter.
It added the poster was a “tangible reflection of our company’s efforts to see, hear, and understand all sides of important public conversations that happen on our service around the world.”


Late on Monday, Vijaya Gadde, legal, policy and trust and safety lead at Twitter who accompanied Dorsey to India, apologized.
“I’m very sorry for this. It’s not reflective of our views. We took a private photo with a gift just given to us — we should have been more thoughtful,” she said in a tweet. “Twitter strives to be an impartial platform for all. We failed to do that here & we must do better to serve our customers in India.”
Twitter, whose monthly active users globally averaged 326 million in the July-September quarter, does not disclose the number of its users in India but its executives have said that the country was one of its fastest growing.
Its use is only expected to grow in India in the coming months as political parties in the country of 1.3 billion try to expand their reach to voters ahead of a general election due by May.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with 44.4 million followers, is one of its biggest supporters.
“I enjoy being on this medium, where I’ve made great friends and see everyday the creativity of people,” Modi tweeted last week after meeting Dorsey in New Delhi.