Controversial Super Bowl Ads Over the Years

By Joseph Endler

CatlinSpeak (Portland, Oregon)

This past weekend, 114.4 million people from around the world tuned in to WATCH what is arguably the most popular sports event of the year: The Super Bowl. Although many people watch the Super Bowl for the exciting game of football, there are many who watch the game simply for the ads. The Super Bowl is known for having the best and funniest ads. However, every year, there is always at least one controversial ad that has the world talking

Who could forget the legendary Go Daddy ad from the 2013 Super Bowl? This ad had a classic-looking COMPUTER GEEK make out with the gorgeous model, Bar Refaeli. This ad spurred many comments online of people’s oppositions to the advertisment. Some enjoyed the ad, others were disgusted by it; but many were angry that the company portrayed womens worth as their body type. Many thought that the ad was stupid and did not deserve to be on TV, much less aired during the Super Bowl. Although this advertisement brought up much controversy, it did its job, as people still remember the advertisement even today. In the advertising world, there is a saying that any publicity is good publicity, and in this case I guess it is true.

The add can be watched here.

However, there are some cases in which a Super Bowl advertisement brought up controversy that was COMPLETELY negative for the company’s image. One example was a Nationwide advertisement that aired only days ago during this year’s Super Bowl. Nationwides motto, “Nationwide is on your side.”

Several examples of past controversial Super Bowl advertisements. (Graphic by Virkram Nallakrishnan)

That is why everyone was shocked when Nationwide took its add to an entirely different place this year. This ad is not sexist to women at all, like some other controversial ads. Instead, watchers complained that this ad was all round too dark and did not display the true dexterity of the company. The advertisement showed a young boy performing random activities, and then ultimately dies. People were upset with the storyline, saying that it an INSURANCE COMPANY should not be showing a kid dying on their advertisements.

Another controversial advertisement that aired this year during the Super Bowl was a Carl’s Jr ad. It was so controversial in fact, that it did not air in some places. “The only market in Oregon we broadcasted the spot in was Medford-Klamath Falls,” reported Nicole Ryan, spokesperson for the Los Angeles-based advertising agency 72andSunny.

This ad had a supermodel walk around almost naked for around 40 seconds. During the ad, there were many sexual puns that came into play such as her breast being compared to melons and other such innuendos. Carl’s Jr. has been known to make sexual adds, but never to this extent.

Super Bowl ads may never stop being controversial, and may be something that people are going to have to get used to. With this many people watching, companies want their commercials to be memorable. Nonetheless, their choice of advertisements is shameful and unfortunate.

Photo Credit: samantha celera

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

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