Well. . . here we go again! For many, next week’s Super Bowl won’t be about the big game, but about the advertising. The previews and teasers for the ads are starting to drop. . . yep, we have so bought into the importance of the ads that we now run preview ads for ads! What have we become?!? Yesterday, Uber Eats dropped their teasers to get us ready for the ads trumpeting the fact that they will deliver more than food. . . including Gwyneth Paltrow’s famous “Smells Like My Vagina” scented candle to Gwyneth Paltrow. . . who takes a bite. . . and. . . well. . . you just have to see it.
Does marketing like this work? You bet! If it didn’t work, then why are companies willing to fork out $6.5 million for a 30-second commercial spot during this year’s Super Bowl? If you’re one of those parents or youth workers who plan on shutting off the commercials during the Super Bowl, let me ask you one question: Why? Why not make your Super Bowl viewing experience productive as a discipleship and educational experience for you and your kids? I want to challenge you to see it as an opportunity to teach how to apply their faith to the glut of marketing messages they face each and every day, by helping them think critically and Christianly about this year’s Super Bowl ads.
Marketing does work. And marketers spend billions of dollars a year researching and implementing strategies to get us all – young and old alike – to buy in by spending multiple more billions of dollars a year. You can call it persuasion, propaganda, manipulation, and more. In his 1991 book, The Pitch: A Simple 1-2-3-4-5 Way To Understand The Basic Pattern of Persuasion in Marketing, Hugh Rank helps us understand just how easily we can be fooled into taking the bait and getting reeled in. He says that “the pitch” typically plays out like this. . .
Step 1: Attention-Getting. This is the simple “hello!” that lures us in with physical, emotional, and cognitive attention-getters.
Step 2: Confidence-Building. This where marketers convince us to believe their “trust me!” message.
Step 3: Desire-Stimulating. This is where we are convinced of our need. . . and that they can deliver to us just what it is that we need.
Step 4: Urgency-Stressing. You’d better hurry before you miss it!
Step 5: Response-Seeking. This one’s pretty simple. Buy!
And what it is that ads sell? Sure, they sell product. But with all of us -young and old alike – seeing an estimated 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day, we will never come close to buying all those products. So. . . what’s the danger? The danger rests in the fact that the greatest power of ads is not to sell product, but to sell a world-view. Yes, ads are a primary vehicle for values transmission in today’s world. Ads shape. . . or mis-shape. . . beliefs and behaviors.
If Jesus is truly the Lord of all nooks, crannies, and square inches of life, then we must invite him into exercising His Lordship over the way we engage with marketing, the way we spend our time, the way we spend our money, and the beliefs that work themselves out in behaviors.
No doubt, the Super Bowl commercials have become an event in and of themselves. Why not take the time to filter this year’s ads through the filter of thinking Christianly? Or, access the ads on YouTube so that you can watch and talk about them after the game. At the very least, sit with your kids and filter the ads through CPYU’s “Simple Seven” ad filtering questions (you can download the FREE pdf handout here). If you want to go deeper, use the additional ad filtering questions on the handout.
Here’s an additional suggestion just for all you youthworkers: Build next week’s youth group meeting around the Super Bowl ads. Divide up into groups. Give each group one ad to process through “The Simple Seven” and the additional ad filtering questions. Come back together and have each group report on what they learned. It’s a great way to get them to think consciously and critically about marketing, and to get them to see how God’s Word applies to all of life!
Here are a couple of helpful resources on marketing and advertising. . .
Want to learn more about how marketing and advertising work in the lives of our kids? Take time to listen to this episode of our Youth Culture Matters podcast. . .
Here’s a plug-and-play parent meeting we’ve put together. . . our Just Add Parents on “Raising Marketing-Savvy Kids” which trains parents to get their kids thinking critically and Christianly about the ads they engage with every day.