Top Five Sexist 2013 Super Bowl Ads

Super 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.


Associate editor of Ms. magazine