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The Big Loser of Super Bowl XLVIII: Sexism?


Some advertisers who bought spots during this year's big game have decided not to alienate half of their viewing audience.

Thanks to the ad campaigns of the last few decades, fans of professional football have become conditioned to associate the pigskin with bare skin. Who can forget the team of bikini-clad Swedes repelling down the mountain, the catfight that rendered its opponents half-naked inside a fountain and then (naturally) a mudpit, and, more recently, a writhing supermodel sent into the throes of ecstasy by a low-budget hamburger.

But something different is happening this year. Suddenly, the "disruptive ideas" conceptualized in copywriters' brainstorming sessions don't call for the next generation Doritos Girl or set of blonde twins. Perhaps they've read the demographic data that nearly half the viewers of last year's Super Bowl were women, or had some kind of collective epiphany that not all the men watching the big game are stuck in arrested prepubescence.

Even notoriously tacky GoDaddy has swapped out the swimsuit-model-sucking-face-with-the-nerd trope for a stampede of male bodybuilders on its way to a spray-tanning salon run by, get this, a normally dressed woman.

A lady owning a business and she's wearing all of her clothes? What's going on here?

But, wait, it gets better. In another spot called What's Your Dream?, GoDaddy will give a real female employee a televised platform to quit her job in front of her boss and an audience of well over 100 million people. (See teaser video below.)

The #NotBuyingIt hashtag is the force behind much of this sea change. The Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) campaign, launched by nonprofit The Representation Project, targets brands that use "offensive, gendered, hyper-sexualized images in their advertising." During last year's Super Bowl, @GoDaddy alone was the target of 7,500 #NotBuyingIt tweets.

Deciding it unwise to alienate an entire gender from its customer base, the domain-hosting company reached out to The Representation Project and asked for advice. It apparently went something like "Try to add another dimension to women beyond their boobs" because GoDaddy said it pledged "not to use sexualized images of women this year."

Now the Representation Project has streamlined the process of calling out sexist advertising for the 47th game with its brand-new #NotBuyingIt app.

Women may have scored their biggest Super Bowl XLVIII ad victory in the GoldieBlox commercial set to air during the third quarter. GoldieBlox, the two-year-old start-up that makes construction and engineering toys aimed at girls, won a contest sponsored by software giant Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU) for a professionally produced, 30-second commercial that will debut on one of the highest-rated TV events of the year.

"We still can't believe that we won. We were all crying when we found out," said Debbie Sterling, founder of GoldieBlox.

The effective spot, called Hear Us Roar, shows a band of girls running at dawn in slow motion while throwing "girly" toys like dolls and teddy bears in the air and is set to a chorus of girls humming the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme.

Intuit footed the entire bill for the pricey time slot -- estimated at $4 million -- and will make GoldieBlox the first small company in history to air a Super Bowl commercial.

We can only hope this does indeed represent the dawn of a new era in advertising and that these girls don't grow up to fight each other in mud pits over their preferred brands of light beer.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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