Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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Super Bowl Ad Recap

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on February 5, 2014

Academy Award statuesWe Americans like to host big ‘world championship’ parties without inviting anyone else, except occasionally the Canadians. It’s a cultural thing. Last weekend was the Super Bowl, which is pretty much the pinnacle of our sporting events. In typical American fashion, the competition is not just limited to the game on the field, it extends to the ads. Super Bowl ads have reached such a level of infamy that 25% of people watch the game just for the ads, ads which average $4 million for a 30 second spot. Considering that 111 million people tune in, it’s a chance for companies, and causes, to make a big impact. In the spirit of that other attention-attracting event approaching, the Academy Awards, I’d like to nominate my three most memorable ads – and talk about the lesson we can take away from them.

Best Overt Promotion Of A Cause:

And the winner is….U2, (RED) and Bank of America! U2 debuted their newest song while offering viewers a limited-edition free download on iTunes for the first 24 hours after the ad aired. For every download, Bank of America donated $1 (up to $2 million) to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In addition, the sponsors expect to generate more than $10 million in donations and funding for the campaign. Click here to watch the ad.

My review: Another great example of a successful partnership between a cause, public figure and a corporation. A win-win-win for all involved. (RED) gets funding, U2 probably sells more albums and solidifies their reputation as global activists, and Bank of America gets some good press and the rub-off ‘cool quotient’. We need our own public figure/corporate partners to really boost awareness about water safety.

Best Subversive Promotion Of A Cause:

Cheerios takes the prize! 8 months ago Cheerios showed a commercial that featured a multi-racial family.  There was immediate racist backlash from people who were offended at the thought that a family might look ‘different’ from their ideal.  To Cheerio’s everlasting credit, they did not back down, they moved publicly forward with a Super Bowl ad:

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Bravo Cheerios for not letting the backlash from narrow-minded biggots send you scurrying into the shadows! The world is changing, with 2.4% of Americans identifying as multi-racial.

My review: With exposure comes understanding. We need to focus our efforts not just on promoting programs/solutions, but of simply putting the issue out there – calmly, without fear and hysteria. First make people aware, then teach them the solutions.

Blooper Award – Worst Depiction Of Water Safety:

Jeep wins the dubious honor of making a dumb way to die look like fun. At second 22 in their ad, Restless, they show a young man doing a flip off a cliff, also known as tombstoning.

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In small print, undoubtedly required by legal counsel, they say ‘Do not attempt’. They’re right, it shouldn’t be attempted. People, usually young men, die or are permanently injured by tombstoning.

My response: We have several choices. Ignore. Puff up in outrage, even send nasty letters to Jeep. Or, best yet, be proactive. Write to Michael Manley, President and CEO of Jeep. Send him a link to the RNLI video on tombstoning.  Respectfully and professionally point out that while you understand that few people understand about water safety, it is a global epidemic and we need prominent organizations like Jeep (and the parent, Chrysler Group LLC) to depict water activities safely. Point out that no car company would show someone drinking and then driving, or even smoking and driving. They shouldn’t be showing tombstoning in a glamorous light either. I sent my letter. Will you?

Remember, they don’t know. The creative people don’t know. But we have a chance to explain it to them, and encourage them to model only responsible behavior around water, nothing that needs the disclaimer ‘do not attempt’. If we do it well, maybe we even get a corporate partner for the next Super Bowl.

Michael Manley’s address is:
Chrysler Group LLC
P.O. Box 21-8004
Auburn Hills, MI 48321-8004

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