It’s that time of year again: when a nation gathers to watch a series of high-budget TV advertisements for various oh-so-American products (you know, like beer). Every year, the Super Bowl ads are commercials that tell stories, that make statements, that speak to the zeitgeist of what it means to be alive in the U.S. in this moment — and they’re commercials that often get things, well, not quite right.
Oh, and in between the commercials something happens with football? IDK.
To get perhaps the truest, most honest and uncensored perspectives out there on this year’s Super Bowl ads — which were the wins and which were the fails and what on earth is happening with that Boston accent — we turned to the best peanut gallery we’ve got: teens and tweens. We polled our Hatch: Raising Gen Z kids (a group that SheKnows has followed over the course of five years to get their real and changing perspectives on everything from sexuality and gender to drugs to climate change to, yep, advertising) to see what today’s kids really think about the biggest ads of the year.
Here are the 2020 Super Bowl commercials teens think are the best — and the worst — of the bunch.
The Split: Olay #MakeSpaceforWomen
The kids were divided on whether Olay’s commercial, featuring stars portraying female astronauts, was actually busting stereotypes about women — or perpetuating them.
“I just think Lilly Singh is so awesome — and she got her own late night show this past year, so putting her in a commercial with Busy Phillips and Taraji P. Henson is just — wow!” raved 14-year-old Reed. “Having an all-female ad portrayed the way it was makes me so happy.”
And why was that? The simple fact that the ad starred women getting shit done. “It’s surprising that even though women make up about half of the Super Bowl audience, there are so few female-led ads, and even so, often they are portrayed in an incredibly stereotypical light,” Reed told SheKnows. “I remember seeing some Super Bowl ads a while ago, where women would eat burgers in bikinis, or spend all day cleaning the house — absolutely shocked when their husbands would help them. I think it’s so cool to have such an empowering ad out there now. I like how the ad isn’t just to promote Olay, but also to help Girls Who Code.”
That said, there was a catch: “My one (small) problem is probably when they press the eject button at the end of the ad, because it feels like it compromises the message by undermining the women’s competency,” Reed admitted.
Other kids we interviewed caught on to the undermining, too. “My least favorite was the female astronauts,” 15-year-old Henry tells SheKnows. “Not because they’re female astronauts, but because it felt so disingenuous. The whole point of the commercial was to empower these women: Look at these female astronauts and their epic walk! But then, they’re all models and they can’t remember their keys. I felt that it contradicted the main message of the entire advertisement, which was to empower women. This was actually degrading to women.”
“My least favorite commercial was the astronauts,” 9-year-old Stella agreed. “At first I thought it was funny, but then when they made that joke that they couldn’t find their keys, it was sort of weird and not funny. They were sort of making astronauts look stupid.”
“There is a bit of sexism in the U.S.,” added 13-year-old Max (you can say that again, buddy). “Women are thought of as being clumsy and forgetful when they’re actually not. They’re equal.”
And speaking of sexism…
The Fail: Tax People
Evan explained that TurboTax’s ad “was probably my least favorite commercial… It kind of cemented the stereotype of men being more capable than women by showing a woman sitting on the floor not able to do her taxes, and then showing a man at the very end successfully completing his taxes.”
“The one I felt a little bit offended by was the taxes one,” Max agreed. “Where it showed a young woman struggling with her taxes…instead of showing all the other people worrying about their taxes, it was only her…only one person who was struggling.”
Well, Max, it seems like everyone else in that commercial was too busy climbing through dog doors and changing their pants in the car. You know, priorities.
The Head-Scratcher: A Wicked Rippah
Surprisingly, one of the ads that spawned some of the most divided opinions among the teens was also, how can I say this, the one with possibly the least substance? Like what is even happening in this ad and what does it have to do with cars?
“My favorite commercial was probably ‘A Wicked Rippah By Da Habah,'” 14-year-old Evan tells SheKnows. “It was humorous…David Ortiz seemed reluctant to learn the accent, but went along with it, and it felt very real somehow, sending a message that you should get out of your comfort zone sometime and try new things. And Rachel Dratch was super funny and so…relatable.”
But 13-year-old Max didn’t agree. “I think the David Ortiz car commercial wasn’t even a car commercial,” he tells SheKnows. “It was just David Ortiz trying to do a Boston accent, which was not needed. I don’t think that would help boost the company at all? Like, most car commercials you’d see nowadays would [actually show] the new model of the car.”
I mean, he has a point.
The Winner: Budweiser ‘American Heroes’
Budweiser’s 2020 ad has already gotten flack from (adult) reviewers for its one-note corniness. Come on, Bud, isn’t there anything new to say other than that you’re beer and you’re American and you’re oh-so-regular? “Enough. Find a new angle,” wrote The Street’s Danny Peterson.
But we were pleasantly surprised to see the Hatch teens actually…loving it.
“My favorite commercial was the Budweiser ‘American Heroes’ commercial,” 15-year-old Henry tells SheKnows. “I thought it had a really genuine message to it; it made me feel good. You see all this bad stuff in the news all the time and I thought this was a really positive message… Showing the better parts of America.”
“Probably the most moving to me was the Budweiser American heroes because it showed how the world is united… It was like a symbol of equality,” adds Max.
“My favorite commercial was the heros commercial,” adds Stella. “On the bus, I mean train, the man gave a guy his shirt. And that’s really sweet, because…there’s not really people who give shirts? And it’s a beer commercial! And it’s really nice to see something kind in an angry world sometimes.”
You’ve got us there, Stella. It really is.