Super Bowl Spots and Their Creatives Even Less Diverse Than Ad Industry

But Study Finds a Very Slight Improvement Over Last Year
By: Ken Wheaton
In news that will surprise absolutely no one in the ad industry, a study of the 2011 Super Bowl ads and the creative teams behind them reveals a lack of diversity. Following up a similar study last year, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida did find some improvement, though.

"The number of advertisements featuring a person of color as creative director went from zero in 2010 to four (representing 7%) in 2011," according to the group. Still, no one is breaking out the Champagne to toast a post-racial America based on numbers that low. And the study found that the "gender breakdown of creative directors remained the same from last year at 94% male, 6% female."The report, compiled at the request of the Madison Avenue Project, goes on to point out that of "the 66 ads, only eight featured a person of color in the lead role."

Oddly, the release attached to the report faults Super Bowl advertisers for a "number of ads portraying men attempting to appease their overbearing girlfriends." It seems weird to mix in "women portrayed as overbearing" with the serious issue of racial and gender diversity -- especially considering the average man (of either race) in many Super Bowl commercials is portrayed as a complete idiot. The group seems flummoxed by the wretched Teleflora commercial, which made men look like dolts and objectified women and was one of the few spots directed by a woman.

The focus on Super Bowl ads isn't only because of how big the game is and how important the ads have become. Choosing the NFL also draws a stark contrast between an ad industry that's been talking about diversity for close to 40 years and making little to no improvement and a league that's made great strides in the last 15 years. As TIDES points out, "seven of the past 10 Super Bowl teams have employed people of color as head coaches or general managers. Positional segregation, particularly in relation to the quarterback position, appears to have ended as numerous quarterbacks who are people of color have started in the NFL over the past decade."

And one final note. Of the two spots directed by African-Americans, one was for the movie "Fast Five." The other was a consumer-generated spot for Doritos.

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