Fox’s in-game breach of contract?
So the Super Bowl was a pretty good if not great game, and a pretty good if not great halftime show by Paul McCartney (though if there is any song that was made for massive fireworks displays, it’s “Live and Let Die.”). The general consensus, however, is that the ads were pretty lame. See Seth ...
So the Super Bowl was a pretty good if not great game, and a pretty good if not great halftime show by Paul McCartney (though if there is any song that was made for massive fireworks displays, it's "Live and Let Die."). The general consensus, however, is that the ads were pretty lame. See Seth Stevenson's review in Slate and Chris Ballard's at SI.com. Part of the reason for this may have been the extent to which FOX and the NFL censored the ads, according to The Age's Caroline Overington:
So the Super Bowl was a pretty good if not great game, and a pretty good if not great halftime show by Paul McCartney (though if there is any song that was made for massive fireworks displays, it’s “Live and Let Die.”). The general consensus, however, is that the ads were pretty lame. See Seth Stevenson’s review in Slate and Chris Ballard’s at SI.com. Part of the reason for this may have been the extent to which FOX and the NFL censored the ads, according to The Age‘s Caroline Overington:
This year the Fox network, which shows the Super Bowl, banned four ads. Many on Madison Avenue were disappointed. Advertisers pay around $US2.4 million ($A3.1 million) for a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl and usually strive to create something controversial. But Bob Garfield, a columnist for Advertising Age, said this year’s commercials were disappointing. He told Good Morning America, “This year, the Super Bowl is interesting not because of what ads they’re showing but what ads they are not.” Car maker Lincoln withdrew a commercial after Christian groups complained. In the ad, which can be seen on the web, a priest finds a car key in the collection plate. He goes to the car park, where he sees a Lincoln truck. He strokes it, loves it. But then a little girl turns up with her father, and the father wants his keys back. Some Christian groups said the ad was inappropriate, given the Catholic Church’s recent problems with pedophile priests. Fox banned an ad from Budweiser that showed a delivery boy using the hard breastplate from Janet’s notorious costume to open a beer. Another ad, featuring Mickey Rooney’s bare and ageing buttocks, was also banned. Fox censored itself too, changing the name of its Best Damn Sports Show, Period to The Best Darn Super Bowl Road Show Ever. But at least one company got a saucy ad through the net. The website, GoDaddy.com, showed an ad with a well-endowed woman jiggling her breasts. At one point, the strap on her singlet top snapped, but no nipple was seen.
Ah, but not so fast!! It turns out that the GoDaddy.com ad did
get censored run into difficulties. Bob Parsons, the CEO/founder of GoDaddy.com, blogs (yes, blogs) about what happened:
[O]ur Super Bowl ad only appeared during the scheduled first quarter spot. It was scheduled to run also in the second ad position during the final two minute warning. Our ad never ran a second time. Instead, in its place, we saw an advertisement promoting “The Simpsons.” The NFL persuaded FOX to pull our ad. We immediately contacted Fox to find out what happened. Here’s what we were told: After our first ad was aired, the NFL became upset and they, together with Fox, decided to pull the ad from running a second time. Because we purchased two spots, we were also entitled to a “Brought to you by GoDaddy.com” 5 second marquis spot. They also chose to pull the marquis spot…. I believe that it’s the first time ever a decision was made to pull an ad after it had already been run once during the same broadcast. (emphasis added)
Forget whether or not this is censorship — FOX is a private company, not the government — if Parsons is correct, then I would imagine this has got to be one whopper of a breach-of-contract suit [Ahem, despite what others may believe, you’re not a lawyer–ed. Good point — I’d appreciate some legal takes on this issue.] If you want to see the “controversial” ad, click here (I recommend the two-minute version — the last spoken line made me laugh out loud). The ironic thing about the ad is that the object of the satire is not the NFL, but sanctimonious politicians (and, I might add, by far the best ad of the evening was the G-rated one for The NFL Network with Joe Montana et al singing “Tomorrow”) It should also be pointed out that this isn’t the first time the NFL has acted like a spoiled brat it its desire to be seen as “wholesome”. Last year ESPN aired a fictionalized show called Playmakers, a “behind-the-scenes” look at a professional football team. While the show was a bit over-the-top at times, Playmakers was an above average drama with some excellent performances — kinda like The Shield for the NFL. However, the NFL believed that the show cast the NFL in a bad light, and made it’s displeasure known to ESPN. In short order, ESPN caved in to the NFL. UPDATE: Krysten Crawford has a story on this for CNN/Money that confirms Parsons’ account:
Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, confirmed Monday that league executives contacted Fox officials after seeing the ad, which they had not pre-screened. The reason, said McCarthy, “was exactly what many people felt. It was inappropriate.”
Check out this Parsons post from earlier in the week to see the back-and-forth between GoDaddy and FOX to get any ad on the air. Finally, the advertising blog adrants suggests that the the ad might not have played well. The Associated Press concurs, reporting that an post-game survey of 700 people found the GoDaddy ad to be one of the least liked. On the other hand, the Boston Globe‘s Alex Beam and the Kansas City Star‘s Aaron Barnhart both liked it. Howard Bashman correctly points out that, “Congressional hearings don’t usually contain this much pretend near nudity.” Writing at WPN News, Kevin Dugan (who hated the GoDaddy ad) makes the provocative argument that blogs have ruined Super Bowl ads forever:
This year, the game was better than the ads. Again. You want to know why? There will never be an ad as good as 1984 again because there are no more secrets (that remain secret) before being told only once. Blogs usurped the payoff around the big game this year. You could head online and find out the latest about any and all ads. We created buzz bigger than 1984 for ads that never stood a chance.
Pamela Parker makes a similar argument. ANOTHER UPDATE: Joal Ryan reports for E! Online that the FCC received 33 complaints from the Super Bowl this year — eight of which were devote to the GoDaddy.com ad. Three viewers called in to complain about Janet Jackson from last year.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.