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Super Bowl Ads — Not Family Friendly?

posted by Nell Minow

Many families have Super Bowl traditions as the generations gather around the television to watch the biggest football game of the year. It gives families a wonderful opportunity to share their interests and histories and to talk about the skill, determination, teamwork, practice, and courage that go into competing at that level. super-bowl-2009.gif
Unfortunately, the ads, which have generated almost as much press as the game itself, can lead to a whole other kind of family conversation and not one many parents welcome. Every year, I hear complaints from parents who find themselves getting questions about ED or who find their children imitating the silly or hyper-sexed behavior from alcohol ads.
Common Sense Media has a new report based on a review of the ads in over 50 games with more than 160 hours and more than 5000 commercials.
They found:

  • 1 out of every 6 commercials shown contained messages and images that were inappropriate for young kids.
  • 40% of the games included advertisements for erectile-dysfunction drugs (Viagra® and Cialis®)
  • More than 500 of the ads involved significant levels of violence, including gun fights, explosions and murders.
  • 300 of the ads were for alcohol.
  • 80 of the ads included significant levels of sexuality, including scenes about prostitution and strippers.
  • Nearly half (44.7%) of the violent and sexual ads were promotions by the networks for their own programs.

94% of the mothers polled said that they were concerned about inappropriate television commercials during pro football games. And at least one father agrees:

“I wasn’t too happy with ads for erectile-dysfunction drugs popping up every 15 minutes whenever I watched a football game with my daughters in the room.”

–President Barack Obama,
The Audacity of Hope, 2006

The report, called Broadcast Dysfunction: Sex, Violence, Alcohol, and the NFL is well worth reading. And Common Sense Media’s site has something even more important — a direct link to send the NFL a complaint using their draft text or your own words. If this is a concern for you and your family, I urge you to let Commissioner Roger Goodell know how you feel.



  • jestrfyl

    If you look at the way they market the Super Bowl, including the Half Time SHows, they are not marketing to kids or families with young kids. If the Half Time shows are an indication of the key demographic targeted by the producers, they are at 40+ year old males. I doubt this is the market they really want. If they were to market toward younger families, and really try to spread the interest, I expect Mylie Cyrus or someone like her would be the featured singer. They need to re-think their audience targets if they want this thing to last another 20 years.
    The best ads so far have been family friendly. The others are notable, but not great.

  • robert

    Amen to President Obama’s comment. I get so sick of seeing those ED commercials when my wife and 16 yr. old daughter are sitting there with me. Can’t the programs that run these commercials find something better. One might think they could find a more marketable product to run a commercial for.

  • http://www.reuters.com/article/televisionNews/idUSN0641049020071008 John

    I agree that some things are not appropriate for family TV. But is it the TV industry or is it the parents. Here in America we are so wrapped up in sexuality that we miss the mark. As parents we need to help our children understand sex and sexuality at a young age not when they are 15 years old. This does not seem to be an issue in European markets were sex is not an issue. So are we just a little out of touch or is it something else? I am not sure where the disconnect is but I think it’s something to think about.

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