Super Bowl 2013, Sandy Hook and What We Learned Sunday Night

What do Super Bowl ads say about where we are as an industry and country?

ByABC News
February 4, 2013, 10:04 AM

Feb. 4, 2013 — -- The object of advertising is to attract attention to a product, business or service by the use of paid announcements. As a profession it vacillates between being a deep and wide industry where there is always something new to learn and there is no limit to the creativity exhibited, and an industry devoid of moral boundaries or tact and bereft of any ability to filter a good idea from a bad idea.

In short, advertising mirrors society in such a precise way it is sometimes a pleasure to watch and sometimes excruciatingly painful. The late William L. Rathje was a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, who studied consumerism, demographics and consumption habits by excavating landfills. He later wrote a book called "Rubbish: The Archeology of Garbage." Rathje had to don protective clothing, get permits, plan and rent equipment; all I needed to do to get a great glimpse of exactly where we are as consumers was to observe the Super Bowl last night and its surrounding circus.

Full Coverage: Super Bowl 2013

Jennifer Hudson sang America the Beautiful, flanked by the Sandy Hook Elementary School, both touched by senseless violence. Hudson's mother, brother and nephew were murdered in 2008 and the Sandy Hook shootings are still fresh in our minds. By the second quarter, the teams were literally throwing punches on the field. Ravens cornerback Cary Williams even shoved the referee with two hands. It made me wonder if we were helping the Sandy Hook kids by sending them to the game or just trying to make ourselves feel better by trying to package our problems and put a bow on them. So, what does this have to do with the commercials?

Well, everything started with the GoDaddy spot where actor Jesse Heiman open mouthed kisses supermodel Bar Rafaeli (the camera closes in for a sound-designed, graphic confirmation). The spot was shown during the Super Bowl and immediately after.

Read more: Super Bowl Commercial Highlights

I cannot recall a single word that was said about the product and certainly do not have a more favorable opinion about it after the spot. I believe, however, that the strategy that led to the spot has more to do with the fact GoDaddy feels the need to outdo themselves from previous years than anything to do with the product or service. And that's my overall impression, the desperation that ensues after you have written a check averaging $3.8 million, forces you outside of the rigor of planning and targeting and pushes you head first into entertainment and sensationalism.

Watch: The Super Bowl Commercial You Didn't See

The brands represented last night were driven by the prime directive of cutting through the clutter and being noticed. So we had Volkswagen borrowing a culture that has nothing to do with its brand, Mio Fit betting the farm and losing with Tracy Morgan, Calvin Klein trying to entice a family audience with soft porn, Kia trying to sell cars by having a female robot beat a man up, Psy singing a bastardized version of his song Gangnam Style while riding a giant pistachio and Jeep, Chrysler Dodge preaching to us alternately with the voice of New Age priestess Oprah and the late right wing apologist Paul Harvey while showing us scenes of soldiers reuniting with families and farmers working the land that tug at your heartstrings in spite of the fact that you know you are being led to the slaughterhouse of commercialism. First time Super Bowl advertiser Gildan's ad helped fill out the bottom of the barrel.