Super Bowl commercials generate as much excitement for some as the game itself. For those whose hometown teams are in this ultimate contest of America’s most popular sport, the breaks in action are time to run and answer nature’s call, grab the next course in the snack lineup or another beverage. For many others, they’d rather miss a moment of play than one of the most creative, entertaining and often heart-warming or tear-jerking ads that are as much a part of the show as the game itself.
Fox is charging four million dollars for a thirty-second spot, an absolutely astounding sum. But, these few hours on a January Sunday will capture an estimated 108.4 million viewers, over one third of the entire population of this country. In fact, the three biggest television events in history are previous Super Bowls. And the ads shown between the plays have become part of American pop culture.
Who doesn’t remember last year’s VW ad with the adorable pint-sized Darth Vader? Or the iconic Clydesdales of Anheuser-Busch bowing for New York just mere months after the 9/11 attacks? Advertisers and their clients know these thirty-second spots get talked about long after the names of the starting quarterbacks are front page news.
This year I already know what two of my favorite commercials will be. Second place in my lineup will be the next installment of the Clydesdale story that began last year. In that one, we watched a Clydesdale grow up on an idyllic farm and train to be one of the select few who get to pull the beer wagon. As sweet as that was, seeing a Clydesdale breaking formation to greet the person who raised him, this year’s promises to be even more of a heartwarming moment. Though it is already out on YouTube, if you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil it. Let’s just say the Clydesdales get a mascot.
The commercial that will be my favorite is one I’ve haven’t actually yet seen. Technically, it is not a SuperBowl ad because it is set to air in the last thirty minutes of the Pre-Game show. It is a PSA produced by the Army and SOS, Survivor Outreach Services.
The PSA will explain the Gold Star Pin in the words of those who are eligible to wear one. The intent is to educate, as are all PSA’s, but they won’t be using humor, cute puppies or anything likely to produce a smile. The ads will simply be explaining that in order to qualify for this unique pin that many seem to think is just a pretty little piece of jewelry, you have to lose a loved one in service to our nation.
When I first heard about this ad campaign, I was astounded. And very, very grateful. The fact it will be airing to one of the largest television audiences of all time is simply amazing. We have been a nation at war for more than a decade, yet too many Americans seem to have forgotten what that means. Beyond the politics, there is a very real price being paid by families across the country. Gold Star families are well recognized, respected and honored by our military and veterans, but the very people their loved ones swore to protect and defend are for the most part completely unaware of the price their families continue to pay.
There are a lot of families, too many, who will gather to watch this most American past time next to an empty seat on their couch. There is nothing that will ever fill that whole in their lives and in their hearts. Every holiday, life celebration and opportunity to gather with friends and family is a reminder of the one who is not there. The least we can do for these families is to be aware of the meaning behind the symbol they wear.