You Can’t Do That on TV (but you can do it online)! The Strength of Banned Super Bowl Ads.

We’re starting to see sneak previews of Super Bowl ads (get ready for some cute animals!), but more interestingly we’re hearing about banned ads. FOX has banned ads for Ashley Madison, a website that helps married people cheat on their spouses, and JesusHatesObama.com, a conservative comedy site.

Image courtesy of footballbabble.com.

Featuring adult film star Savanna Sampson, Ashley Madison’s 30-second spot shows a woman entering a board room and announcing that her husband has been cheating. It cuts to shots of the cheating husband and the people in the board room kissing each other. A man even gives a mascot a big smooch. The spot ends with Sampson in a bra and asks, “isn’t it time for AshleyMadison.com?”

While hardly the most skin FOX has ever shown (there have been equally controversial ads for GoDaddy.com), the broadcasting company claims, “Standards & Practices has deemed the Ashley Madison spot is not acceptable to air on FOX.” It’s nice to know that FOX keeps such close tabs on its reputation by screening the ads it chooses to show. Of course the advertisements reflect on FOX, but the actual ads aren’t offensive in themselves. But this leaves me questioning if the ad has been banned not because of what the actual spot displays, but what it promotes: Ashley Madison uses the tagline, “Life is short. Have an affair,” and this is Ashley Madison’s second banned ad in the past three years.

Screenshot from Banned Ashely Madison Ad

With upwards of 90,000 views on youtube, the ad is an example that shows perhaps creating a risqué ad is the way to go nowadays. Considering that one 30-second spot during the Super Bowl will cost about $2.6 million this year, why not get your ad banned and use the publicity to generate viewership independently of a network? It even helps the company reach its target audience more effectively. It’s almost as effective and saves the company millions of dollars.

The Jesus Hates Obama ad shows two bobble heads: Jesus and Obama. Underscored by “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Obama’s head shakes while an angry Jesus watches. Obama falls into a fish bowl. A happy Jesus bobbles his head and the tagline sounds: “get your stuff at JesusHatesObama.com.”

FOX deemed the ad “not acceptable to air on FOX during the 2011 Super Bowl” and did not give a specific reason for rejection. This ad contains no nudity or violence, so I’m guessing that the religious aspect of the ad caused the refusal. But the website isn’t about religion at all. Despite its title, JesusHatesObama.com is simply a conservative comedy site that sells t-shirts, and its homepage says “Do we really believe that Jesus hates Obama? Of course not!” It looks like FOX is being just really careful in its reputation protection this year.

Of course we’re seeing the same strategy with Jesus Hates Obama as with Ashley Madison: they are using the hype about the bans to actually promote their ads. JesusHatesObama.com even has a link to the ad on its homepage. And what’s nice about these ads for websites, is that when people view them online, they are already at their computers ready to jump over to the website right away. There’s no need to remember the ad or website’s url. For these websites, it looks like getting your ad banned is better than actually having it air during the Super Bowl!

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