Super Bowl Ads – Inconsistencies Abound

There’s significant controversy brewing about a Super Bowl ad featuring Florida’s All-America quarterback Tim Tebow. The ad is well-produced and features a pro-life message about how Tebow’s mother became ill during a trip to the Phillipines in 1987 and, against her doctor’s advice to terminate the pregnancy, kept the child who was the Gator quarterback.  The ad is sponsored by the group Focus on the Family.

From a story on

CBS said Tuesday that the decision to air the Tebow ad reflected a change in its policies toward advocacy ads that has evolved over the past several years.

“We have for some time moderated our approach to advocacy submissions after it became apparent that our stance did not reflect public sentiment or industry norms,” said spokesman Dana McClintock. “In fact, most media outlets have accepted advocacy ads for some time.”

He said CBS “will continue to consider responsibly produced ads from all groups for the few remaining spots in Super Bowl XLIV.”

In 2004, CBS was criticized by many liberal organizations for rejecting an ad by the United Church of Christ highlighting the UCC’s welcoming stance toward gays and others who might feel shunned by more conservative churches.

CBS said Tuesday that, under its new policies, the UCC ad would have been accepted for airing. The network said that it has run ads in the past year or so with divergent views on topics such as the health care overhaul, climate change and energy policy.

Thirty-second commercials during the Super Bowl are selling for $2.5 million to $2.8 million.”

In 2004, PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, had a Super Bowl spot rejected, entitled “Veggie Love” showing women who loved their vegetables.  According to PETA, the ad exceeded NBC’s bounds of good taste. Fascinating coming from the network that airs Saturday Night Live.  Didn’t advertise some racy spots every SuperBowl in recent memory?

PETA says: “NBC nixed the ad, saying it ‘depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards.’ No joke, this is straight from NBC—so stop fondling your fruit salad right now and read the list of shots NBC requested we cut before they’d reconsider:

  • licking pumpkin
  • touching her breast with her hand while eating broccoli
  • pumpkin from behind between legs
  • rubbing pelvic region with pumpkin
  • screwing herself with broccoli (fuzzy)
  • asparagus on her lap appearing as if it is ready to be inserted into vagina
  • licking eggplant
  • rubbing asparagus on breast

Last year, the website, which is a service for married men and women looking to hook up for an affair, had their Super Bowl spot rejected by the NFL.  It was an ad for the Super Bowl game program.

“Officials for the dating Web site said that they were approached and they signed a six-figure contract for the ad with PSP Sports, which creates and sells ads in many official programs for sporting events.

But we’ve just learned that, even in this economy, not everything is fair game.

Noel Biderman, CEO of, told CNBC that his ad was eventually rejected and was specifically told that the company wouldn’t be allowed to advertise in any NFL game program until the end of time.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said that no one in the league office actually ever saw the ad. “After realizing what the site was, the sales rep called back and told the company there was a mistake and that his company could not sell an ad to the site.”

Which begs the question; why are some advocacy spots OK and others not OK?  If the sponsor has the money to advertise, the free market economy sort of insists that this is how an event like the Super Bowl can be broadcast for free to millions of Americans.  If we don’t like the message, we get a snack or use the bathroom, or, in the case of a game magazine or program, we turn the page. 

I don’t have a problem with the Focus on the Family ad, but believe that the PETA and UCC ads should have been approved too.