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Sexist Super Bowl ads? #NotBuyingIt, some say

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
GoDaddy's
GoDaddy's "Kiss" ad drew criticism from men and women for stereotyping programmers and objectifying women.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Viewers use Twitter hashtag #NotBuyingIt to call out what they saw as offensive TV spots
  • GoDaddy's ad featuring model kissing programmer biggest offender among hashtag users
  • Twitter campaign's purpose to raise consumer awareness about purchasing power
  • Campaign highlights limited depiction of masculinity in Super Bowl ads, activist says

(CNN) -- While this year's Super Bowl commercials ran the gamut from sentimental to silly, some were downright offensive to viewers who used the Twitter hashtag #NotBuyingIt to flag what they considered the most sexist spots of the night.

Web host GoDaddy.com earned more than 7,500 #NotBuyingIt tweets for its ad featuring an intimate smooch between supermodel Bar Refaeli and a bespectacled computer programmer, putting it at the top of the list of offenders, according to Miss Representation, the social activism nonprofit leading the Twitter campaign for the second year.

The "Perfect Match" and its "smart meets sexy" tagline drew criticism from men and women for "stereotyping programmers and objectifying women" in the words of one male Twitter user.

"@GoDaddy, continuing the tired stereotype that programmers are geeks, while women are sex objects. Disgusting," a female user tweeted.

Overall, #NotBuyingIt generated more than 10,000 tweets and reached more than 8 million people on Twitter during Sunday's Ravens-49ers showdown, a spokesman for Miss Representation said, citing statistics from Topsy and Hashtag.org.

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Two days after the Super Bowl, the ads continue to generate conversation and controversy. "Love 'em or hate 'em, you have to admit Go Daddy's Super Bowl ads are effective," begins one story published Tuesday on news that the domain name provider had its biggest sales day in history after its Super Bowl campaign.

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Others continued to criticize some of Sunday night's ads for playing on typical gender stereotypes, promoting sexual assault and making the Super Bowl into a less than family-friendly event.

"The #superbowl commercials are a window into American culture & values. Today, try to pay attention to what (they're) telling you," one user said in a comment that was retweeted more than 230 times.

In response, another person tweeted: "(Let's) just enjoy the game. No academics. PLS:-):-)"

In a statement Monday, GoDaddy.com said it embraced "commercial controversy" even if some viewers deemed the content "inappropriate." CBS rejected two "edgier" versions of the spot, and the final version earned more than 4 million views on YouTube before the game even started, the company said.

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"We're not going to apologize for 'The Kiss,' " CEO Blake Irving said. "It's sparking conversations. It was approved by network Standards and Practices and it uses humor to illustrate the point about how powerful a combination 'sexy' and 'smart' are. Personally, I think it's hilarious."

GoDaddy.com wasn't the only company to earn the #NotBuyingIt designation. The main goal of the campaign is to make consumers think twice about their purchasing power, said Imran Siddiquee, social media coordinator of MissRepresentation.org. But, as the response to the GoDaddy spot showed, the campaign not only highlights demeaning portrayals of women but also the limited depiction of manhood on display in most Super Bowl commercials, he said.

Breaking down Super Bowl tech ads

"Masculinity in America is so very narrowly defined, and it's an interesting juxtaposition to have that conversation during the Super Bowl," Siddiquee said.

Viewers have come to expect women seductively devouring fast food or throwing themselves at men during Super Bowl commercials, he said. But more surprising was the reaction to ads featuring what Siddiquee called more "subtle" forms of sexism, such as Audi's "Prom" ad, which showed a teen boy strutting onto the dance floor, grabbing a girl and pulling her in for a kiss.

"(S)top teaching our boys that bravery is kissing a girl you've never talked to & that girls are simply objects or rewards," one person tweeted.

A spokesman for Audi said the prom queen's reaction to the kiss was meant to indicate there was history between the two, showing that "in no way was the kiss something less than mutual."

"While trying to tell a complete story within the 60-second format, much of the backstory has to be implied or set up off-camera," the spokesman said in an e-mail.

After the kiss, another prom-goer, presumably the girl's date, lunges at the guy and punches him in the face. Change scene to the protagonist driving away in his Audi with a bruised eye.

"So getting punched in the face makes someone a man?" another person tweeted.

KIA, Mercedes-Benz and Fiat USA were also targeted for ads playing the "nice car = get the girls" trope, in the words of one person.

"Hey @MBUSA More WOMEN drive than men AND we influence 85% of car buying decisions. Stop the sexist ads," @WellVersedMom said.

The lesson of the evening? As one person put it: "What have I learned from #SuperBowl ads? Women = robots, objects, strippers & showgirls. Violent men are brave. Hmm what else???"

Miss Representation compiled its favorite tweets and viewpoints into a Storify summarizing reaction. Mobile users who can't see the Storify below should click here.

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