ORLANDO - Super Bowl television commercials, and the advertising agencies producing them, remain out of step with the diversity of the audience for the nation’s most popular sporting event, according to a study released today by the University of Central Florida.
White men continue to dominate advertising agencies, and the lack of women and persons of color as creative directors in Madison Avenue agencies is reflected in the commercials that aired during Super Bowl XLV, according to the study by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) has conducted its second annual study on the racial and gender makeup of creative directors responsible for the advertising spots aired during the Super Bowl.
The report has been compiled at the request of the Madison Avenue Project, a partnership between the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Mehri & Skalet, PLLC.
Not much changed between Super Bowl XLIV and XLV. According to the Nielsen Ratings, Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers drew the highest rating in American television history with an estimated 111 million viewers, surpassing the record 105 million viewers for Super Bowl XLIV, played in 2010. For the second consecutive year, the matchup pitted an inexperienced small market NFC team against an AFC team that had won a Super Bowl recently.
Once again, there was a lack of diversity represented in the creative directors of the game’s advertisements. While the creative directors makeup again reflected a vast underrepresentation of women and people of color, it also reflected an improvement from last year’s study. The number of advertisements featuring a person of color as creative director went from zero in 2010 to four (representing 7 percent) in 2011. The gender breakdown of creative directors remained the same from last year at 94 percent male, 6 percent female.
Cyrus Mehri, founding partner of Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, said, “We applaud Dr. Lapchick and his graduate students. By keeping the spotlight on Madison Avenue’s Super Bowl ads, the industry has made a small step from zero black, Latino or Asian creative directors of Super Bowl ads to four in one year. While we are pleased that the industry has picked itself up from the ‘inexorable zero,’ the spotlight on the industry must continue so more progress can be achieved in the years ahead.”
Kim Keenan, general counsel for the NAACP, added, “Despite the overwhelming diversity of Super Bowl viewers, the advertising industry continues to turn a blind eye to both creative and on-camera diversity. The 2011 report illustrates the glacial pace of equal opportunity in advertising.”
The Super Bowl represents the zenith in American sports in terms of advertising opportunities. At no other event do the viewers pay almost as much attention to the action off the field as they do to the action on the field. As the players fight for glory on the field, some of the biggest corporations and advertising agencies fight for consumer attention by investing $3 million for 30 seconds worth of time.
This report demonstrates the advertising industry’s current disparity in hiring practices in terms of race and gender. The data, both quantitative and qualitative, yielded results that were strikingly similar to the data found in the inaugural 2010 study.
Racial and gender data was available for 58 of the 66 advertisements aired during the 2011 Super Bowl, compared to 58 out of 67 in 2010. Forty-eight of the advertisements were produced by major advertising industries, while the other 18 were either produced in-house by corporate marketing departments or through third parties by contest winners or other non-professionals compared to 52 and 15, respectively, in 2010. Of the 58 advertisements in 2011 for which data was available, only four (7 percent) featured a person of color as the lead creative director; 93 percent of the 58 ads used white creative directors, while 100 percent of the commercials in 2010 used white creative directors. In terms of gender, 94 percent of the creative directors were male, while only 6 percent were females, equal to the 94 percent and 6 percent breakdown in 2010.
The content of the ads represented another area that proved to be quite revealing. In addition to the continuing use of gratuitous sexual content, this year’s bundle of ads managed to depict some women in an antagonistic manner featuring a number of ads portraying men attempting to appease their overbearing girlfriends.
There was also a lack of people of color featured as main characters in the advertisements. Of the 66 ads, only eight featured a person of color in the lead role. According to Nielsen demographic data, there were 12.5 million African-American viewers and 10 million Latino viewers of the 2011 Super Bowl, up from 11.2 million and 8.3 million, respectively, in 2010. Also, there were 51.2 million female viewers, up from 48.5 million female viewers in 2010.