Super Bowl Commercials Tackle Bullying, Tech Divide

By Mark Walsh — February 02, 2015 2 min read
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Among the commercials during the Super Bowl on Sunday were two that addressed bullying of young people. And another ad highlighted technology in education.

Advertising during the NFL championship game attracts outsized attention because of the huge TV audience and the creative effort that goes into such commercials. NBC drew more than 100 million viewers for the game and charged $4.5 million per 30-second commercial.

Taking the ads in the order they appeared, Coca-Cola Co.'s “Big Game” commercial touched on bullying in social media. The ad starts with images of cyberbullying, with words such as “hate,” “u r ugly,” and “you’re a stupid loser.”

But a technician spills his Coke into some sort of master Internet server, and somehow cruelty is banished. A boy on a schoolbus sees a message on his phone change from “no one likes U” to “There’s no one like U.”

The ad ends with the tagline “The world is what we make it.” The Twitter hashtag #MakeItHappy appears.

At halftime, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Always “feminine protection” brand ran its “Like a Girl” spot, which debuted as a Web video last year and has a narrator first asking several adult women, boys, and men what it means to “run like a girl,” “throw like a girl,” or “fight like a girl.” These people suggest stereotypes such as running or throwing awkwardly or fighting with light pawing motions.

“When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult?” the commercial asks in a graphic.

Then, the ad asks several young girls to show running, throwing, and fighting like a girl, and they respond with confident moves, such as running fast and throwing boxing-type punches. (Though the fighting may be a bit out of place given all the attention to domestic violence this year.)

“A girl’s confidence plummets during puberty, but it doesn’t have to,” the commercial says. “Let’s make #likeagirl mean amazing things.”

Another Super Bowl commercial with an education-related theme was run by Microsoft Corp. in the second half.

As part of its “Empowering” campaign, the tech company featured “Estella’s Brilliant Bus,” which “brings technology to kids who need it most,” as founder Estella Pyfrom puts it.

Pyfrom was a Florida guidance counselor who in 2011 decided to use her retirement savings to fund the computer-equipped bus, which provides tutoring to underprivileged students.

The rapper Common recites from speeches by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in the ad.

“The real question that needs to be asked, as well as answered, is what is it that we can do that is unique, that is impactful,” Common says in the ad. “We are going to empower every individual and every organization to do more and achieve more.”

(I think it’s a safe bet there are no Apple computers on Estellla’s Brilliant Bus.)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.