Top Five Sexist Super Bowl Ads, 2013

Picture 7Super Bowl ads are no joke. Just as the NFL’s best teams face off against each other every year, advertisers jockey for who will have the most memorable commercial, spending around $4 million for less than a minute of airtime. And all for very good reason: An estimated 108 million people watched last night’s Super Bowl between the 49ers and the Ravens, and 71 percent of the televisions in America that were turned on at the time were tuned into the game.

Advertisers know buying Super Bowl spots can be the most effective way to grab as many eyes as possible, and in the quest to have the ad everyone is gabbing about at the water cooler the next day they don’t hesitate to pull out all the stops, no matter how ridiculous or offensive. When I wasn’t waiting for Queen Bey’s halftime show, I noticed Super Bowl advertisers seemed to up the ante in coming up with the most sexist spots possible this year. So here’s the Ms. blog countdown of the most egregiously wrong ads that aired last night.

Number 5: Audi

A high school loner heads out to prom sans a date, but not to worry: His dad gives him the keys to his flashy Audi ride. It gives him the boost of manly man-ness he needs to march into the prom solo, grab the hottest girl at the dance and plant a fat one on her right before her jock boyfriend gives him a black eye.

Heads up to young men who may have school dances coming up: This ad notwithstanding, it’s not romantic or masculine to put your hands on a woman without her consent and then make out with her. It’s assault. Having an expensive car doesn’t entitle you to force yourself on anyone.

Number 4: Mercedes

In this spot for Mercedes, Kate Upton shows how women don’t have to lift a finger as long as they can use their bodies to get men to do their menial tasks for them. Just by standing around, posing suggestively and sweeping her blonde locks from side to side, she can make all the men in the vicinity turn into gaping baboons who will cater to her every whim. Makes total sense since a woman’s only as powerful as the double Ds she’s packing under that pushup bra, right? Wrong.

Number 3: Carl’s Jr.

Danish model Nina Agdal eats a fish sandwich in the most oversexed way I’ve ever seen while removing most of her bikini. While I enjoy fast food as much as anyone, I can usually manage to eat it without doing a striptease, but maybe I’m just out of the loop on this one.

Number 2: 2 Broke Girls

In this promo for the TV sitcom, actors Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs take to the stripper pole to show how relevant their erotic dancing skills are to running a cupcake shop. The answer turns out to be not very much when Beth turns to Kat to ask, “Wait, why are we doing this again?” “It’s for the Super Bowl.” “Oh, right.” Back to working the pole!  As someone who occasionally watches 2 Broke Girls, I found this promo particularly bizarre since these characters aren’t even sexualized on the show, but are actually multidimensional, empowered women. Guess that was too hard to communicate in a 30-second spot so they went for sex appeal, which always sells. The spot even caught the attention of Rep. Raul Labrador (R) from Idaho who eagerly tweeted, “Me likey Broke Girls,” from his official congressional account after it aired. Ewww.

Number 1: GoDaddy

There’s no contest: The most offensive commercial goes to a granddaddy of Super Bowl sexism, GoDaddy. Not at all a stranger to demeaning women for the sake of selling Internet domains, GoDaddy offered a disturbing ad starring Israeli model Bar Rafaeli and actor Jesse Helman. Bar represents Beauty and Jesse Brains, explains race-car driver and GoDaddy spokesmodel Danica Patrick, who adds that the two qualities represent the perfect match: And, thus, the disparate pair kisses passionately. Once again, we have the recurring male gaze-y fantasy of the nerd landing the supplicant bombshell. Plus, the man is the smarts of the operation, whereas the woman just needs to sit there and be flawless. This commercial wasn’t funny or clever, but any press is good press, right GoDaddy?

Bonus NON-Sexist Ad

Finally with all the negativity surrounding the usual sexist ads this year, we want to highlight one non-sexist Super Bowl ad that proves  corporations can provide funny, memorable commercials without demeaning women–or men. The effervescent Amy Poehler got everyone’s attention in her Super Bowl spot for Best Buy not by taking off her bikini or sliding down a pole or even lip-locking with a nerd: She was just her clever, awesome, unstoppable self. These are the spots that ad execs should green-light, not sexist tropes that are lazy and uninspired.

Top: Image from 2 Broke Girls promo


  1. Shirley Adams says:

    I noted on your Blog the Kate Upton ad was misogynistic and was coming as an ad at the Bowl. With violence against women still very present in society and in the world , e.g. India, the Super Bowl went out to millions globally and probably so did the ads. This is disgraceful and media execs simply aren’t getting the message that women in America are sick and tired of being objectified. It is time to set up a mailing lists of who we can write to complain about this continued sexism. It needs to stop!

  2. I thought the Audi ad was the worst overall. GoDaddy was gross, but at least the model consented to kissing the guy. Audi promoting sexual assault is beyond disturbing.

  3. In what way is the last episode non-sexist? It screams “Girls don’t know anything about tech/science”. Sure it’s funny and she’s not naked, but that doesn’t make it not-sexist.

    • Janice Harn says:

      I don’t think that’s what it was going for. The Best Buy commercial is just saying how they’re employees will answer all your questions no matter how dumb they are. It just so happens that person is a woman. If it were a man you could suggest it’s saying all men are idiots.

      P.S. – Best Buy employees suck, and the company should not exist.
      P.P.S – If it wasn’t clear, I heavily dislike Best Buy.

  4. First of all, I refute that being sexy and celebrating a hot body is sexist. It’s stupid, ok, but not sexist. If anything, the Kate Upton ad is sexist because it makes men (boys) look stupid. The broke girls ad points this out too, making fun of the fact that the Super Bowl is all about T and A regardless of context. Anyone who didn’t pick that up is a dickweed, that means you, Labrador, but also the writer of this article.
    Secondly, the Amy Poehler ad IS horrid with gratuitous sexual harassment that is not funny even if the perp is a woman. If a male comic had shot this Ms. would be up in arms. Bravo on the double standard!
    The Go Daddy ad is totally sexist (and just awkwardly gross) exactly what one would expect from go daddy. This article should have been about their ad and their ad alone.

    • If you don’t find all of these ads sexist, perhaps you should pick up a copy of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. None of these women are celebrated for anything EXCEPT their sex appeal. There is no equivalent of this sort of media treatment for men. The message is: women are objects to be earned by being a “big shot,” just another commodity in a capitalist society. And it hurts women because in the workplace we have these same unfair expectations of maintaining sex appeal while being qualified at the same time. It is perfectly legal to fire us because our employer thinks we should wear more makeup or lose some weight, and images of these women with perfect bodies, hair, and makeup enter the collective mind of society and put pressure on all women to make an attempt to conform, otherwise we will effectively be ostracized from society and the market as a whole. It is incredibly hurtful to women in every way, shape, and form. In no way is this treatment comparable to men.

  5. Great article! I played Bingo during this year’s Superbowl, courtesy the Riverview Center: Their bingo card has you look for sexist, homophobic and violent ads – get enough of each category and you “win.”

  6. I disagree regarding the Bestbuy ad. The cultural insistence that women don’t or can’t “get” technology has led to a gender employment topography gap in the technology field. It’s akin to telling women they just aren’t “set up” for science. Ugh.

  7. I disagree with some of these. There is a difference between being sexist and being sexual. That’s why I don’t necessarily have a problem with some. If there is no difference then I’m shocked and love te double standard that the most blantant an offensive sexist ad was th Calvin Klein ad which just highlighted a man in his underwear. He was wearing less than any woman in any ad. Sexist is sexist but am not really surprised that ad was overlooked.

    Finally, as far as the Audi ad. I thought it was cute. While there is no backstory it’s easy to jump to the conclusion he assaults her but just as equally based on her reaction it can be assumed she consents and enjoyed it. That’s how I took the ad especially cuz she kissed back. If simply coming in and kissing a girl is offensive (where there is no indication in the thirty second spot that she didn’t consent) then I say we burn every Rom Com where the guy comes in and just rushes in and kisses The girl. Sorry The Notebook. assault! sorry, stupid crazy love. assault! I understand the perception that he comes in and violates her but I do think that’s what happens in the ad

    • Thinking Liberal says:

      “There is a difference between being sexist and being sexual. That’s why I don’t necessarily have a problem with some.”

      This is exactly the point. Businesses do not generally go out of their way to be sexist. Rather, they are trying to make money and justify the money spent on the advertisement. (As stated in the article, the average cost of a 30-second ad for the Super Bowl was $4 million).

      The companies who made these ads (presumably) believed that appealing to their target male demographic using female sexuality would increase the likelihood that these men would buy their products. It may be a flawed assumption, but companies should have the right to run whatever advertisements they believe will help push their products.

      On the flipside, if you consider the ad offensive, as a consumer, it is your right to ‘vote with your wallet’, and simply refuse to buy the product. If enough customers find the ad offensive, the resulting backlash against the company will cause it to change its actions.

      @Hannah: “It is perfectly legal to fire us because our employer thinks we should wear more makeup or lose some weight…”

      Do you mind citing this information? I’m curious as to where this practice is legal or even common.

      @Shirley Adams: “I noted on your Blog the Kate Upton ad was misogynistic and was coming as an ad at the Bowl. With violence against women still very present in society and in the world , e.g. India…”

      I’m curious as to how the Kate Upton ad, while universally sexist (sexist against both men and women), is related to the current events in India? The ad involves a woman’s sexuality being used as a source of power, while the rapes and misogynistic culture in India involve women experiencing a lack thereof.

      “This is disgraceful and media execs simply aren’t getting the message that women in America are sick and tired of being objectified.”

      Again, respond with your money. If media execs aren’t getting the message, send them a message where it counts, by denying them your business. If companies continue to make money after running these ads, they will continue to run similar ads.

      To address the problems, think the way businesses think.

      Thanks for your viewpoint,

    • But the whole point of consent is that you ask for it BEFORE you do something. What if the girl hadn’t liked the kiss? She would’ve been kissed anyway, because the boy couldn’t be bothered to ask if she actually wanted it.

      And yes, I do think a lot of romantic comedies (or actually many movies in general) are VERY problematic and make things that would be awful in real life seem romantic: stalking, non-consensual sex, putting extreme pressure on someone, talking down to someone, not listening to someone. The list goes on and on.

  8. I really enjoyed how women overlooked the Calvin Klein commercial, when talking about sexist. Now, tell me who’s sexist?

  9. shit commercials i hate sexism…. btw… wtf am i even doing here

  10. I just think you look to much into this.

    I definitely see why the Mercedes one was but the others (could not see 5 and 2) I just think you thought to much into it. watch me do it.

    #3 shows that women don’t just eat a small side salad. And it also shows sexism towards men with a stupid guy getting a stupid looking sunburn and acting perverted implying men are both stupid and perverted.

    #1 The women speaking is obviously very smart. And well one gender had to be the nerd another the good-looking person.(I won’t defend go daddy to much they do have a sexist commercial record.)

  11. The Amy poehler ad wasn’t sexist… is she supposed to know what Best Buy offers in terms of switching contacts and data plans and what not…the amount of questions she had was only playing on amy poehlers hyper persona.

  12. Take some comfort.. the Super Bowl does NOT go out globally with the US ads. They do end up on the Internet, but here in Canada we get entirely different advertising, and it’s done most places like that. It’s only the US that’s directly subjected to the inanity that is Super Bowl and it’s ads as presented in the US.

  13. Yea, I’ll admit that GoDaddy was able to genuinely surprise me with the direction of that ad, and I feel like that is hard to do now a days. So many companies want to try and push the envelope in one way or another, it has sort of become the norm. Oh and I do agree with Aiden when it comes to the Best Buy commercial featuring Ms. Poehler, but thanks for sharing the great post!


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