What this year’s Super Bowl commercials said about us

Josh Larsen

Did you see yourself in any of this year’s Super Bowl commercials?

Because advertisers are trying to give us what we want - or convince us we want something - their commercials often work like mirrors. When we look into them, we can see the people that (advertisers think) we want to be.

So what did this year’s Super Bowl ads say about us? Well, judging by the two products that dominated the air time, apparently all North Americans want to do is drive cars and drink beer. (In fact, an alien race studying us based on these ads might even get the impression that our cars ran on beer). What else would those aliens have learned?

We’re Competitive (Ford Focus)

Ford’s spot is part of an online campaign in which you can follow a number of teams driving Focuses in a cross-country race. Considering the commercial mostly features the drivers bragging about their inevitable victories, the ad is less about the superior qualities of the vehicles themselves than about braggadocio and the desperate desire to be the victor. The tag line doesn’t even have anything to do with the car. Instead, it’s essentially a half-time speech: “Watch. Compete. Win.”

We’re Cruel (Pepsi Max)

Pepsi’s campaign put all its eggs in the meanness basket, considering the punch line in both of its ads involved a can of pop being hurled at an unsuspecting victim. The assumption, of course, is that someone else’s pain will invariably make us laugh (and buy pop).

We’re Hopeful (Chrysler 200)

Chrysler got emotional with its ad, a lengthy spot detailing the economic struggles of Detroit. The ad then takes a sharp turn, arguing that enduring such hardship has only emboldened the city to do what it does best: make cars. It’s a message of resilience and resurrection (never mind that the commercial ends with an appearance by Motor City spokesperson Eminem).

So that’s us, according to the advertisers of Super Bowl 2011: Competitive and cruel, yet also hopeful. Does that picture look at all familiar to you? What other messages did this year’s commercials send? And in what ways might the Gospel message offer a corrective?

Topics: TV, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Sports, News & Politics, Social Trends, Media, North America