For good or bad, advertisements are a reflection and extension of the culture.
So, what did the commercials during last night’s Super Bowl communicate?
Just two observations:
1. The most popular ads lifted up noble ideals: Charles Revson was the founder of Revlon cosmetics. He once reflected that his company may make lipstick in a factory – but it is hope that they sell in the drugstores. Super Bowl XLVII’s highest scoring spots struck a similar hope-filled chord:
- A trainer and his horse were reunited (Anheuser-Busch)
- Hard-working farmers were lauded and honored (Dodge)
- The sacrifices and demands facing military families were recognized (Jeep)
- The everyday challenges of parent-child communication were noted(Kia)
2. Calm and quiet beat chaotic and loud: Two of the highest-scoring ads were among the most quiet. The laconic and gentlemanly voice of the late Paul Harvey filled the screen, silhouetted only by snapshots of the modest Midwest and its people. Oprah Winfrey’s poignant military tribute was buttressed by a sweeping but simple soundtrack that moved viewers to tears as we watched children and their parents.
On the whole there was all too much crassness for parents, especially of young children, to cringe at, of course. Sexual innuendo seemed to find its way into almost every other spot. Violent imagery and derogatory humor were also unfortunate and all too common characteristics in this year’s ads.
Navigating this coarse landscape leaves one to shake one’s head as to why a Focus on the Family Super Bowl commercial celebrating life a couple of years ago was deemed controversial – but a spot laced with overt sexual overtones is not.
We know the answer to that somewhat rhetorical question, of course. Culture is fluid and always warring with the ideals of Christianity, especially now as our society quickens its march toward greater secularization. But in the midst of it all, the business behind last night’s game should serve to remind Christians of two main things directly related to my two earlier observations:
- The darkness will never overcome the light. There is ultimate hope to be had in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ”This is the verdict,” wrote John, “light has come into the world” (John 3:19).
- If you want to make a difference, if you want to stand out, you need not go along with the flow and try and mimic the culture. Ironically, the louder and more coarse the culture becomes, the more distinct and sweeter will the Gospel of Jesus Christ appear in contrast.