Note: for an updated 2022 post on Super Bowl ads, click here.

“Commercials” used to be a dirty word. They interrupted our television watching. They were an excuse to get up and get a snack or go to the bathroom. And if you didn’t get up during the commercials, you certainly didn’t pay attention. More recently, we (as in all of us. . . including people in my family) would complain about having to adjust the volume on our TV whenever a louder-than-life (certainly louder than whatever it was that we were watching!) commercial started blasting away in an effort to get our attention, time, and money. Then, thanks to a government ruling, that all changed a few months ago, with broadcasters (do we still call them that in the digital age????) being required to turn it down on their end. I’m not sure that’s really happened. . . as the ads are still coming through my speakers more loud and more clear than we need or want them to be. The squeaky wheel gets the grease as the old saying goes. Or, he who makes the most noise is the most heard. With hundreds of thousands of marketers trying to peddle their wares, they need to scream over top of each other. . . at us.

And that’s what the Super Bowl has become. It’s not so much about the game these days. The game is rapidly becoming a side-show to the real events. . . a halftime extravaganza (“Is she really singing??”) and lots of commercial debuts. If you don’t believe it, then consider this fact – this year it’s costing $4 million for a 30-second ad slot! Why? Because we love the ads. We’ve been lulled into willing consumerism. We’ve been effectively marketed to for so long that we love being marketed to. We’re nuts. Super Bowl commercials are such a big deal that many of the commercials are being previewed and pre-released. Go ahead. . . do a Google search on Super Bowl commercials and you can spare yourself the misery of waiting for Sunday to arrive.

We had a conversation last week with a youth worker who’s facing the dilemma of all Super Bowl dilemmas. . . should I or shouldn’t I let my kids watch the commercials at our Super Bowl party? We’ve got an answer. . . or maybe more accurately a question about that. . . “Why not? Why wouldn’t you let your kids watch the commercials?”

For the last several years, we’ve been recommending that youth workers and parents use the Super Bowl commercials as a redemptive opportunity to teach kids about marketing. Talk about why it costs so much, why it’s so effective, and how it’s done. We think this weekend provides a great opportunity to teach/disciple kids into a Gospel-centered understanding of marketing. You should be processing the Super Bowl commercials through a Biblical world and life view. After all, we want our kids to filter and view all of life through that Biblical world and life view. We want them to manage advertising rather than having advertising manage them. This is a skill that has to be developed in our consumer/market-driven culture.

Once again, we’ve put together a handout that you can use with the kids you know and love. . . “CPYU’s Ad Filtering Questions for Super Bowl XLVII.” Go ahead. . . use it. Then let us know how it all worked out.

And here’s one of the best-ever. . . from 33 years ago. . . hard to believe!

6 thoughts on “Ads Gone Wild. . . Super Bowl Commercials and Why We’re Nuts. . . .

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and this great resource! I think it’s important for us to help students view all of life, including TV ads, through the eyes of the Gospel and God’s revealed truth in Scripture. I appreciate your heart and desire to train others about teen culture.


  2. I was a marketing major so I think this is so valuable, but our youth director doesn’t agree that they should be viewed for anything but entertainment value. I wish I could figure out how to bring it up on my own.

  3. Lauri – thanks for your comment. In all honesty, I’m stunned that a youth worker would see any commercial as purely entertainment. Commercials are designed to grab attention and sell product. Your youth worker is not only wrong (I know. . . a bold statement on my part. . . but after studying marketing for years I that’s the only conclusion I can come to!), but is missing a great opportunity redeem those Super Bowl commercials and disciple kids into some good, biblically-based, critical thinking. I hope you are able to figure out a way to bring this up!

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