The Super Bowl audience is 46% female according to Nielsen data, and something like 85% of all consumer purchases are made by women—so you’d think that advertisers paying around $4.5 million to run a 30-second spot, would have figured out long ago that they’d want to appeal to us. Or, at the very least, not alienate. Well, the message may finally have gotten through.

This year’s ads were more inclusive than in the past, likely in large part because of the NFL’s terrible year as regards to scandal, abuse and sexism. Brands advertising in the Super Bowl were particularly sensitive to not seeming to endorse any of that bad behavior. (The NFL donated airtime for a gripping “No More” PSA addressing domestic violence.)

Super Bowl tweetsMany female creative directors, including myself, participated in a live Super Bowl Tweetup organized by The 3% Conference using the hashtags #3percentsb, #mediawelike and #notbuyingit. (The 3% Conference, founded by Kat Gordon & Rebecca Rivera, builds the case for more female representation in advertising leadership.)

The general consensus seemed to be satisfaction that there were only a few egregiously offensive ads. (Yes, we’re talking to you Carl’s Jr.) There weren’t many ads where women were portrayed as half-dressed eye candy (Ahem, Victoria’s Secret.) Even GoDaddy was a non-offender with an understated ad that made its point. There were noticeable efforts toward more equal representation of men and women (WeatherTech showed women working as equals next to men), challenging of clichéd gender stereotypes long outdated by real life (Dove’s Men+Care), more multiculturality and inclusivity (Toyota and Microsoft featured a Paralympic athlete and an active little boy with prosthetics. Dodge featured older people, and not purely for comedic relief. Loctite Glue had a diverse mix but were we laughing with them or at them?) I also enjoyed the realistic father-daughter relationship in Toyota Camery’s “My Bold Dad”.

That’s not to say that an ad is great just because it presents a more positive and realistic view of women. But great creative can’t afford to only be relevant to half its audience.


#LikeAGirl • The empowering “Like a Girl” spot from Always/Procter and Gamble got the hastag #LikeAGirl trending. Jet Blue quickly joined the conversation, tweeting a photo of two female pilots flying.


Fiat Super Bowl Ad• Fiat’s “Pill” was a well-played twist on that little blue pill that engaged both men and women, and strongly communicated the product benefit.



BMW• BMW’s “Newfangled” was humorous and charming, but next time Katie should drive and ask Bryant if he can twerk. (Women are responsible for 65% of new car purchases.)



Nationwide_Mindy• Nationwide Insurance has a gem in “Invisible Mindy”. Who hasn’t looked around the conference room and wondered if she was invisible? The execution was great but the line that tied it to Nationwide flew by so fast I almost missed it—Join the Nation that sees you as a priority. Nationwide. On your side.”

Coca Cola

• “Download Happiness” from Coca Cola admirably took on bullying and hate speech, changing mean messages into positive ones.


View all the ads here:

And tell me what you think…