10 Super Bowl Commercials That Went Too Far


Every year the beneficiaries of American capitalism pay the equivalent of some countries’ GDP for a 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl. If you think we’re exaggerating, we are – but the GDP of Tuvalo comes strangely close. Whichever analogy you choose, the sums are extravagant, and the commercials even more so. The Super Bowl is the most watched broadcast on American TV. With so many eyes glued to the screen, the commercials need to captivate the viewer in the way Edward Bernays prophesied, especially to recoup their costs. Therefore, all kinds of ads are placed on the Super Bowl stage. They run the gamut from scary, sad, hilarious, dangerous, thought-provoking, scandalous, and controversial, but there is one common denominator: they must be entertaining. Of course, when entertainment is paramount, some ads are bound to step over the lines of decency. And they do - quite often. Every year, a few commercials are castigated by viewers, and articles abound on the myriad ways they might have caused offense to this person, that person, and the imaginary person. For most companies, the outrage is short lived - what you will see are the exceptions. These are the cream of the crop, the offensive of the offensive, the champions of Super Bowl controversy. Still, no matter how problematic a commercial is, it won’t be as bad as the Janet Jackson incident. Advertisers sleep a little easier knowing that.