On February 3rd, American families all over the country gathered around their televisions to witness the Patriots take yet another championship title (6 rings, baby).
For many, Super Bowl viewing parties are a yearly tradition, filled with family, food, and loud dads reminiscing about their glory days from their own high school football teams.
But for advertisers, this event is an annual opportunity to reach the largest audience possible. After all, the Super Bowl is by far the most widely watched sporting event in America.
For those who may not know the difference between a first down and a fumble, there are always the commercials to look forward to. While we may not all remember who won the game in 1992, Cindy Crawford’s Pepsi commercial from that year has certainly not been forgotten.
It's no secret that an advertising slot is well worth the cost. Companies are willing to spend millions of dollars. So, with the viewership captured by such an event, is there a certain responsibility that comes with it?
CBS has been facing backlash and praise alike for its decision to reject a commercial promoting the use of medical marijuana.
While a portion of viewers agreed with the decision, many were left confused. After all, medical marijuana has become a less controversial issue countrywide now more than ever, with its availability spanning 33 states and the District of Columbia. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center , 62% of Americans agree with its legalization, a steady increase over the past decade.
So with the support it has been gaining, it couldn’t be that broadcasters are refusing to acknowledge the positive benefits. Surely, they just do not want to air any marijuana-related advertisements from either side, right?
In 2016, an anti-marijuana dispensary ad aired in Massachusetts and caught the attention of many, and it wasn’t the first of its kind.
Commercials warning consumers of the negative effects of pot have been pushing the anti-marijuana legalization agenda for years.
In a fair, democratic society, does the American public not deserve equal exposure to the other side of the argument?
That said, let’s give channels like CBS the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, they do not want to appear as a pro-substance use channel, normalizing a possibly dangerous substance.
But wait, if that was the case, why were there so many commercials normalizing alcohol consumption? To list a few, Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Michelob Ultra all got their fair share of air time. Meanwhile, 88,000 people die annually from alcohol poisoning.
If channels were in fact trying to keep a substance-free platform, wouldn’t avoiding the promotion of such a dangerous product be priority #1?
Maybe, it's time we reevaluate what we see as controversial on the screen.
The rejected commercial focused on two stories: one of a veteran coping with injuries from combat, and another of a child treating chronic seizures. It was proposed as a “call to action", yet, it never received air time.
This seems to be a very different message from Bud Light’s hypocritical product promotion.
Of course, CBS has the right to decide which commercials to air, and which to reject. One does not have to go far to find scholars claiming negative side effects of marijuana smoking since studies are still being done to discover what these may be. It makes sense that a broadcast news channel may hesitate promoting an uncertain, controversial message.
But, can these same channels morally deny a commercial with a positive message regarding the successful treatment of a veteran and a child, while profiting millions of dollars promoting numerous beer companies: a product that directly causes tens of thousands of deaths per year?
What kind of message are we trying to send regarding substance use in America?
Channels broadcasting the Super Bowl have an undeniable power in controlling the media consumed by millions of families across America in this annual event. It is what they do with that power that counts.