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A Super Bowl Ad You’re Either Going to Love or Hate

Susan E. Wills - published on 01/27/15

Who knew soap could be so controversial?

Last year’s Super Bowl was the most watched event in the history of TV with an average of 112.2 million  fans watching the game at any time. Correction: They weren’t actually watching the game during most of the 210-minute (give or take) broadcast. Pro football games feature a measly 11-13 minutes of playing time (snap to ref’s whistle calling the play dead). The other three hours are filled with instant replays, videos of players milling around, the half-time show (or updates from other games), and, of course, the ads. Lots of ads.

The Super Bowl of football also happens to be the Super Bowl of ads. “Several studies,” according to an article in Forbes, “have proven that 50% of the Super Bowl audience tunes in just to watch the ads.” And boy do they get their money’s worth!

Last year advertisers shelled out $4 million for a 30-second spot and $8 million for 60 seconds of air time, and that doesn’t include production costs upwards of $1 million. It’s a high-stakes game because ads are critically ranked and rebroadcast by the media, talked about for weeks, extolled or mercilessly trashed. TIME, for example, provided a comprehensive (and snarky) critique of last year’s offerings. There were precious few “A”s. Imagine being the Creative Genius who has to face his client after the ad that cost $10 million to produce and run earned a spot among the “worst Super Bowl ads.” People care about this stuff: There are 23 million Google search results for the “worst Super Bowl ad of all time.” These fails can be epic and career-changing. Or they can bring immense goodwill to the product, which can boost sales and create loyal customers for years. 

Dove’s line of men’s care products may be taking a risk this year. Their theme is “Dove men care” and this year’s entry is “Real Strength” — “What makes a man stronger? Showing that he cares.” It may be the only commercial in which only one word (plus variations) is said, about 19 times (Dada, Daddy, Dad-e-e-e-e, Dad, Da-a-a-a-a-ad!). Two dozen scenes show kids calling their dads to the rescue, or dads playing with them, consoling them, caring for them and coming home to them. There’s a very tenuous product tie-in, but the images and message — Dads Matter — will melt the hearts of a large segment of the audience. 

While paying tribute to the dads who are watching the Super Bowl (one hopes, with their kids), it’s a touching and timeless reminder of what our dads mean (or meant) to us — if they were reasonably good men — and, for the wives/moms in the audience, it may be a reminder to be thankful for their husband’s role in raising good kids. In the 1950s, just about everyone would have loved the ad, although the idea of men’s shower gel and skin-softening products might have creeped out much of the public. But today, it’s a gutsy move, because not everyone can relate to what are supposed to be common events in everyone’s life. 

One in three children today are growing up in a household where their biological father is absent. In 1960, fewer than one in nine were. By age 17, only 45 percent of children will “have grown up in an intact married family,” that is, with both biological parents who are married to each other. This means, of course, that 55 percent of children in the US are growing up with parents who have rejected each other (and them) before or after the child’s birth.

How does the absence of a dad impact children? The average income for married couples with children is $80,000. For single mothers, it is $24,000. In 2011, only 11 percent of married couple families with children were living in poverty,

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