Fox and advertisers confident of inoffensive Super Bowl

NEW YORK - As the Super Bowl approaches, companies submitting ads are confident they will not elicit the sort of controversy that consumed last year's contest.

NEW YORK - As the Super Bowl approaches, companies submitting ads are confident they will not elicit the sort of controversy that consumed last year's contest.

Last year's Super Bowl was famously dominated by an exposed breast, a slew of ads featuring jokes about sex or flatulence, and plenty of complaints from family and religious groups. This year, both advertisers and Fox, the network airing the game, have taken steps to avoid a repeat of last year's debacle.

Mark Dollins, Pepsi VP of PR, said the company had done its due diligence before submitting its ad. He also noted additional steps being taken by Fox and the NFL, but declined to elaborate.

Lou D'Ermilio, head of PR for Fox Sports Networks, declined to discuss the network's vetting process or what plans it might have in place should there be a backlash.

However, D'Ermilio did write via e-mail, "I will tell you that this is the fifth Super Bowl I've worked from a network PR perspective, but it's the first that I will have pre-thought a strategy about dealing with editorial and commercial content."

Other advertisers expressed confidence that their material was patently inoffensive.

"We don't have any crisis PR in place in the event of backlash. Our ad isn't at all offensive," said Bob Parson, CEO of Go Daddy, a web-services company and first-time Super Bowl advertiser. "We think it's adorable."

However, Parson said he realized that there's always someone who doesn't like what you do. Indeed, some have criticized Go Daddy for advertising at all, given the exorbitant price for a 30-second spot - particularly in light of the many dot-coms that have previously folded within months of big Super Bowl ad spends.

Lisa Anderson, director of publicity for Focus on the Family, said the organization did not expect it would have to comment on any ads at this year's Super Bowl, nor had it assigned anyone to monitor the game.

But she noted that members would likely watch the game on their own, however, and the group could shift into rapid response mode if needed. She agreed, however, that both the network and advertisers seemed much more careful this year.

"Late year's [incident] generated so much interest because we knew families were watching the game," Anderson said. "We're coming back to the same event, so it'll be interesting to see what happens."

In 2004, the organization's media and sexuality analyst, Daniel Weiss, responded to the halftime show incident the day afterward, calling it "nothing more than a high-tech striptease foisted on tens of millions of unsuspecting Americans."

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