Cancel Commercials: Super Bowl Ad Regulars Avoid Game Over Fear of Offending

Connor Grant | January 25, 2021
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With Super Bowl LV right around the corner following Sunday's conference championship games, the typical Super Bowl commercial-running companies should be gearing up with their funniest, influential, and most heart-warming ad concepts. But unfortunately not even Super Bowl commercials will be normal this season. 

With the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-increasing social partisanship in America, many companies are neglecting to purchase the typically coveted, $5.5 million advertising time slots because of their fear of being offensive.

The companies that have announced they will not be running ads include: Hyundai, Olay, Avocados From Mexico, Little Caesars, Ford, Coca-Cola, and most recently, 37-year Super Bowl ad veteran Budweiser. 

Bill Oberlander, co-founder and executive creative of ad agency Oberlander, told the New York Post: “For the Super Bowl, you generally go big or go home. I think brands are going home rather than spending tens of millions of dollars and not getting it right. They’re saying, ‘let’s wait until this s*** storm clears.’” He also added, ““The country is so divided and split right down the middle that I don’t think that there’s a commercial that will appease both sides,”

Rob Schwartz, chief executive officer of ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day was in agreement with Oberlander. He said: “Every client conversation I’ve had these days is about who is going to be offended by this ad...There’s a lot of discussion about risk mitigation. What that tends to do is that it makes things very bland and not effective, or it forces you to look at universal topics like hope or humor.”

In the past we have seen people respond poorly to Super Bowl ads they deem offensive. An example of this was a 2017 Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner being nice to a police officer during the soft drink maker’s Black Lives Matter-themed ad. Many viewers believed the ad was trivializing an important issue. 

Despite the concerns, many companies will still be running ads as usual. These companies include; M&M’s, TurboTax,Toyota, Pringles and Mountain Dew. Humor is expected to be the name of the game for their ads as they shy away from potentially divisive social and political subjects. 

With the Super Bowl’s competitors set as football’s greatest player of all time, Tom Brady, against the NFL’s best young superstar, Patrick Mahomes, there will likely be no lack of viewership. It is unfortunate that many companies will not be able to take advantage of this opportunity and that viewers won’t be seeing the usual bulk of entertaining Super Bowl ads.