Lovin: the Super Bowl 2015 ads

Posted: February 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

A year ago I wrote a post on advertising during the American Super Bowl and the commodification of love. Yesterday I watched some of the Super Bowl 2015 ads to see how prominent love was this year. The advertising spots available during the Super Bowl are by far the most expensive air time on television. This year the price rose by half a million dollars. The cost is now $4.5 million for each 30 seconds. Many advertisers budget millions more to preview their Super Bowl spots on YouTube and to promote them on Facebook and Twitter. Advertising companies spend additional millions on continually improving their manipulation skills, developing sophisticated strategies for exploiting love.

Capitalism’s commodification of love is powerful and effective. Within capitalist social relations people are commodities and are encouraged to consider and treat each other as such. Advertising “turns lovers into things and things into lovers”, not only promising that if you “buy this you will be loved” but “buy this and it will love you”. As capitalist culture tries to divide and separate us, it represents love as centred on ownership and control, teaching people to treat each other as possessions, commodities and competitors. In this way, capitalism tries to retard and detach loving social connections, to limit people’s desires to those that serve capital. While promoting a selfish culture in which things matter more than people and where the passion to connect is replaced by the passion to consume and possess, advertisers are also capable of self-parody – poking fun at the marketing of greed, consumerism and narcissism.

In this Super Bowl 2015 spot ‘Selfish’ author Kim Kardashian mocks her own self-obsession.

The use of love by corporate media and consumer culture to sell commodities, can make it appear hollow, as people are encouraged to find emotional satisfaction in private experiences linked to consumption. Capitalism strips love of its best aspects and repackages it as a set of product choices. As capitalism fosters lovelessness, it offers to satisfy the desire for love with commodities and alienated relationships, producing capitalist subjectivities for capitalist commodities and capitalist commodities for capitalist subjectivities.

There’s money to be made from selling caring social connections. And, as we see and hear from this Super Bowl 2015 commercial, in a cruel wired and wireless world – Coke is love.

For those who remain disillusioned with human relationships, one of this year’s most popular Super Bowl ads was ‘Lost Dog’, the sequel to last year’s much admired Super Bowl commercial ‘Puppy Love’.

As love and solidarity keep the wolves at bay, competition and conflict permeates and drives the commercial world. Super Bowl advertising is an important cultural phenomenon and increasingly a contested battleground. Among this year’s most successful Super Bowl advertising campaigns was Dorritos annual online competition ‘Crash the Super Bowl’. This campaign invites people to create an advertisement for Doritos and to vote for their favourite competition ad. As well as seeing ‘their ad’ aired during the Super Bowl, this year’s winner receives a million dollars and a ‘dream job’ with Universal Pictures. ‘Crash the Super Bowl’ is the largest online video contest in the world and receives tons of news, chat show, and social media coverage. Yet, this year, Doritos didn’t have it all their own way – also attracting a different kind of love story.

A Cheesy Love Story – The Ad Doritos Don’t Want You to See’.

A loving relationship between a couple and their favourite snack food isn’t enough to sustain us. Humanity’s survival now hinges on the preservation and extension of loving relationships that nurture the biosphere, people, flora, fauna, land, water, air, life. Many of our current struggles are concerned with protecting and embracing biodiversity and the creation of loving environments, focussed equally on humans and the nonhuman world in a dynamic of interdependence, care, and mutual transformation.

There’s plenty of work to be done, but who will do the work of love? There’s a common perception that love tends to be ‘women’s work’ and that women are more loving. As bell hooks explains; “Females are more likely to be concerned with relationships, connection, and community than are males”, but this is not because women are inherently more loving than men, but because “they are encouraged to learn how to love”. Since patriarchy has always seen love as women’s work, it has degraded and devalued labours of love.

Yet, as this Super Bowl 2015 ad illustrates, there’s a growing recognition of the importance and power of men’s care work.

Feminists promote the value of caring labour, kin work, nurturing, and paternal activities and the extension of the power of love to the whole of society. Struggles against gendered divisions of labour aim to share the work of love and break down distinctions between the work of love and other forms of work, so that all work can eventually become labours of love.

This week’s TV episode of Saturday Night Live tackled some of the gender roles at the heart of male sport dominance and the Super Bowl’s patriarchal corporatism.

“The power of patriarchy has been to make maleness feared and to make men feel that it is better to be feared than to be loved.” (bell hooks)

As this Super Bowl 2015 ad highlights, there are more important issues than what to eat while watching the game.

This ‘No More’ ad didn’t cost $4.5 million per 30 seconds. That’s because it used airtime donated by the National Football League as penance for the way it has dealt with recent high-profile cases of domestic and sexual violence committed by footballers.

Lastly, after a year of falling profits and a successful campaign by its U.S. workforce to raise the minimum wage, one of the long-term masters of commodifying love, McDonald’s, used Super Bowl 2015 to launch a ‘brand refresh’ with this ‘Give Lovin, Get Lovin’ ad.

Corporations, like McDonald’s, want us to pay with our love. As part of its ‘Lovin’ promotion, McDonald’s will let some of their customers have food for free if they perform ‘Lovin Acts’ designated by the manager of the store – e.g. hug someone, dance, give their server a fist bump, describe the best thing about a family member, or make a phone call to tell a relative they love them. The offer lasts from the day of the Super Bowl until Valentine’s Day.

Capitalism tries to use our affection and our desires to reproduce itself. Advertisers employ the languages of love to seduce people, to gain access to our cash cards and to our hearts. They carve into our social networks, attempting to manage and manipulate our relationships in order to promote corporate products and corporate agendas. Marketers want to bind us to commodities, brands and consumption, turning our capacity to love into an instrument of accumulation, a resource and power of the commercial. But our love always exceeds and cannot be contained by capital. Instead it is a dangerous alternative to a hateful system, maintaining and creating a multitude of caring social relations and continuously challenging the pseudo-love of corporate propaganda.

Nick Southall

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  1. […] Lovin: the Super Bowl 2015 ads […]

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