The Most Terrible Super Bowl Commercials

a still from the vw superbowl ad

This Super Bowl, we learned a few things: Bruno Mars has a twin brother/two-bit doppelganger who plays drums in his band. Wearing Axe body spray will create world peace. And Morpheus will pretend he respects Kia for some amount of money.

Let’s talk about Bruno Mars for a second. I was pretty unexcited about the prospect of Bruno Mars at the Super Bowl, since I thought we agreed the Super Bowl can now only book people better than Beyoncé. Those people include only Beyoncé. But I was pleasantly surprised! He did alright! He’s kinda catchy!

On to the commercials, though. There were fewer overtly sexist commercials than last year’s Super Bowl douchebaggery. But there also weren’t that many commercials that featured women at all. There were almost more commercials featuring leading bears than women. We should be asking why it’s so unfathomable that a woman could be funny or awesome enough to sell products. This isn’t just about looking for equal representation; it’s about the troubling idea that women just aren’t selling what we’re buying. Except sex, obviously.

So, with no further ado, here are my top picks for most terrible Super Bowl commercials of 2014.

1. Jimmy John’s “Anniversary”: In the second quarter, we saw a commercial where a man arrives home with Valentine’s Day presents, only to find his wife doing laundry and not expecting his gifts. She orders Jimmy John’s; he’s delighted. I would expect nothing less from a CEO who shoots adorable animals for fun.

I think maybe this commercial was trying to be intentionally sexist as a campy joke—but even if it is intentional, the commercial just ends up being boring. If I wanted to watch a woman doing half-hearted laundry and ordering food for delivery, I would take a video of myself on Sunday afternoons. If you want to make an ad for Jimmy John’s, why not show the reality: a single 20-something paying $2 extra for delivery because leaving the house is akin to chopping off their own leg.  

2. Volkwagen “Wings”: At the end of the second quarter—after an inspiring third touchdown from Seattle—we learn that VW engineers get their wings when a VW vehicle reaches 100,000 miles. By “engineers,” of course we mean “men.” All of the engineers who get their wings in this commercial are men. There is one woman who seems to be an engineer. She’s seen in an elevator, but she’s just there to slap an engineer when his wings touch her butt. Women, right? Always mistaking male-only progress for sexism.

3. Masterati “Strike”: Okay, this commercial isn’t really sexist, I just want to complain. I understand that commercials are intended to sell a product. But it bothers me when that product is built up to be some kind of grand progress. It’s a car, not a revolution. In this ad, images of Quvenzhane Wallis are cut over beautiful shots of sky and sea.  “The world is full of giants,” says Wallis’ voiceover. “We had to learn how to deal with them, how to overcome them.” I assume this is going to be an ad about some actually important issue. The voiceover continues, telling us that “we”—I presume, women and underdogs—are ready to strike. “I am ready!” I think. “What are we doing? Fixing this messed-up world? Taking a hold of our fears? Applying to grad school?” Oh, no, it’s a car commercial. We are doomed. 

In the same vein, the Axe commercial promoting world peace had me rolling my eyes. Spraying yourself with Axe is not a bold, anti-authoritarian act. It’s smelly body spray. We all know it’s smelly body spray. Don’t try and pretend it’s a special set of chemicals that is going to change the world.

4. SodaStream’s “Sorry Coke and Pepsi”:  First, a PSA for everyone: You can’t SodaStream wine. I know you’ll read this and think, “Shit, I should try that!” You’re wrong, though.  Shit is bad.

Second, the commercial. The original version of this ad was banned: it ended with Scarlett Johansson saying, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.” FOX worried that its big-name advertisers would react badly, so the aired commercial is much the same, without that line. The original is online as the “uncensored” version and has nearly 10 million views now because people probably think “uncensored” means there is going to be nudity. Canny move, SodaStream.

In this ad, ScarJo starts out wearing a lab coat and saying, “Like most doctors my real job is trying to save the world.” She offers some straightforward information about Sodastream—“less sugar and less bottles” than regular soda—but then laments that the ad won’t go viral. So to boost its popularity, she strips off the lab coat and begins sexily drinking the beverage while making doe-eyes at the screen. She realizes her sex appeal is much more likely to go viral than just a fact-based message.  

The saddest thing to me here is that she’s right. Still, I’m not sure SodaStream’s commercial is a biting commentary at this point in the game—we’re all drunk. Either way, I’d love to see a commercial that featured a woman lead without so much self-conscious commentary about how weird it was to have a woman selling a product without having to do a sexy dance.

5. Doritos “Cowboy Kid”: This commercial involves a mom asking her boys if she can get some help with the groceries. “I don’t know, can you?” asks her evil son. “You’ll do it if you want Doritos,” she says, revealing a bag of Doritos in the backseat that the boys then battle over. New tagline: Doritos—For When Your Kids Are Assholes. 

What were your least favorite commercials? Add whatever I missed to the comments. 

Related Reading: Thoughts on the Cheerio’s commercial featuring an interracial family

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by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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12 Comments Have Been Posted

Hahaha I am glad we can agree...

I'm glad we can agree that most of these commercials were horrible. Mostly Doritos...

"New tagline: Doritos—For When Your Kids Are Assholes." So perfect.

The other big problem with

The other big problem with the Soda Stream ad is that ScarJo was asked to not endorse it because their factory is in occupied Palestine and she chose instead to stick with Soda Stream AND no longer be a rep of OxFam.

Totally Agree

Glad to see someone already pointed this out. Thank you!


Soda stream + crappy bottle of Blue Nun = Prosecco

On a Positive Note...

The Super Bowl did bring us a feature of a similar/same sex couple in a Coca Cola commercial, as well as a national airing of the multiracial Cheerios family, as well as a commercial where girls reject their pink toys and shoot them off in space on a rocket.

Baby steps... baby steps...

Axe changes the world

Sadly, Axe bodyspray's chemicals are changing the world--making it more poisonous, along with scented laundry detergents and unregulated factory emissions and dumping and perfume and stinky bath products for LAYDEES. Fragrances are making it impossible for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities to access public and private spaces including housing and hospitals. That's a disability issue that disproportionately affects women of color, who are, of course, more likely to live in areas that are the target of environmental racism, and to work in jobs where there is a higher chance of sustained exposure to dangerous chemicals, all of which contribute to causing chemical injury/MCS in the first place.


In the above article the word douchebaggery is used. Why isn't that considered a sexist term? Why is it okay to use the concept of douchebag to connote "bad"? Seems to me like you promoting the idea that women's genitals are something for laughter--and especially dirty women's genitals. Jus' saying...

Dude, douchebags are not

Dude, douchebags are not "dirty women's genitals". Douchebags are unnecessary, unhygienic products marketed based on the assumption that a women's natural bodily fluids are "dirty". I can hardly think of a better insult.

A lot of feminist-minded

A lot of feminist-minded people regard douching as unnecessary, unhealthy, and associated with the idea that vaginas are inherently unclean. As such, insults based on the term douchebag are considered acceptable and, when it comes to criticising sexism, very astute.

Anonymous- I've wondered

Anonymous- I've wondered about this too. Even though actual douching products are unhealthy and sexist (promoting the prudish and misogynist notion that women's genitals are smelly & unclean), I'm not convinced that using the term douchebag as an insult is always a convincing feminist move.Especially because I don't believe the originators of this term as an insult were the least bit forward-thinking. I think the advent of the term as an insult is based on the fratboy notion that nothing is grosser than something that was used to clean up some "smelly" gals' genitals--sort of like using maxi-pad or shit-bag as an insult. The connations of language are contextual and often in flux, so I'm for sure not saying the term should be verboten, but I think questioning it is completely appropriate.

It's a bathrobe, not a lab

It's a bathrobe, not a lab coat, that ScarJo is wearing. It would be too in-your-face feminist to imply that a woman could actually be a lab technician. Instead, we should imagine her just having had a bath.

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