Sometimes, news reports are so shocking that putting thoughts into words becomes difficult. The NBC report that drag queens will appear in an advertisement during the 54th Super Bowl is one of them.
Eyes on the Screen
The annual football game is one of television’s most-watched programs. According to Statista, 98.2 million U.S. viewers watched the 2019 game, almost 30% of the total population. Not all viewers are interested in the game itself. Some are primarily interested in the creative and entertaining commercials.
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This popularity makes advertising very expensive. Sporting News reported that air space for a thirty-second ad during the 2019 game cost between $5.1 and $5.3 million. That does not include the production costs of the commercial.
These advertisers want to get something for their investment. There is evidence that they get it. According to the book, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, movie trailers shown during the game generated a three dollar increase in ticket sales for every dollar spent on the ad.
However, some advertisers and producers want something else. Although it is difficult to quantify, these messages are powerful drivers of social attitudes. Such a motive undoubtedly plays a role in presenting drag queens as promoters of hummus.
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Hum, Hum, Hummus
This year marks the first time that Sabra will advertise their hummus products during the Super Bowl.
For those unfamiliar with the product, hummus is primarily a paste made of chickpeas combined with other flavorings. Sabra promotes it as a healthier alternative to dips based on sour cream and other dairy products. According to a 2014 article on Fast Company, Sabra owns sixty percent of the U.S. hummus market.
Sabra started in Queens, New York in 1986. In 2015, PepsiCo purchased a substantial interest in the company, which it markets through its Frito-Lay division. PepsiCo is no stranger to the big football game, having used it as an advertising vehicle since at least 1990.
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Why Drag Queens?
One feature of Sabra’s marketing is as old as advertising itself. According to Today, the company plans to announce a contest during the February 2 game. The five winners will receive “$100,000 cash prizes, plus, a ‘ridipulous’ (Sabra’s words) supply of hummus for 2020.”
A chance to win a hundred grand definitely attracts interest. Sabra and PepsiCo could hire any well-known celebrity to announce the contest if it wished. Indeed, industry publication Adweek points out that the ad will also feature a rapper and two “stars” of the reality series, Real Housewives of New Jersey. Why does it include drag queens, who will offend many viewers?
The explanation given to Adweek reads like a marketing textbook. “We’re bringing a diverse group of personalities to the table and demonstrating just how incredibly versatile, relevant and relatable hummus is today. We think we’ve got something for everyone,” said Jason Levine, chief marketing officer for Sabra.” Mr. Levine’s “everyone” does not appear to include those with any vestige of a moral standard.
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The initially-cited NBC story gets closer to the mark. It quotes Bob Witeck, who is “a longtime marketing strategist who specializes in reaching LGBTQ audiences.”
“For queer audiences, it is an art form and an ‘outsiders’ language. Reaching the Super Bowl means taking our language into every home in the nation and millions around the world.”
NBC continues, “Witeck said the Sabra ad, which could reach around 100 million viewers during the Super Bowl, is indicative of a sea change in the public perception of drag, which he said has been normalized in the mainstream for many years.”
A Winning Strategy?
The end lesson is inescapable. PepsiCo and ViacomCBS did not reach their current positions by making marketing mistakes. These companies know what they are doing by presenting drag queens as acceptable to the mainstream.
Such stunts do not build viewership. VH1 has suffered a significant decline in viewership. According to Amy Watson of Statista, “In 2019, an average of 640 thousand viewers watched VH1 in the United States, marking a drop of more than one hundred thousand from the previous year. The network also lost 20 percent of its viewers within the 18-49 demographic.”
However, Viacom and PepsiCo push the liberal agenda of an intolerant world of “tolerance.” They openly promote the values of New York and Hollywood and denigrate Christian values. They are out to remake society in their image and do not mind taking a loss if that is necessary. They know that by operating in a moral free-fire zone, they can push the envelope today and gain social acceptance tomorrow.
Pulling Out of the Social Death Spiral
The immoral merry-go-round needs to come to a stop. We need to get off the ride, call out those who degrade morality, and pray that more and more people join the effort to stop these aberrations.
There are signs that a backlash has begun. From 2015 to 2019, Super Bowl viewership has declined from 114.4 million to 98.2 million. That is still a vast number, but it is also a substantial decline. Let us pray that Middle America will reject television’s deteriorating values.