The Slap That Rocked the Super Bowl: Doritos = My #AdWIN of the Game

Super Bowl 44 did not disappoint: great back story going into the game. The Colts have a Black coach, who gets them back into the playoffs during his first year in his new role. Garcon represents Haiti as they clinch their conference title by draping the Haitian flag on the trophy table. The Saints carry an entire city on their backs to their first Super Bowl appearance in their 40 year franchise history–and to think they almost moved the team post-Katrina. As the Saints go marching in to the big game, Mardi Gras starts two weeks early.

The game was equally exciting. As a die-hard basketball watcher, I was riveted. I had no ‘team’ to root for per se’, so I chose the underdogs, The Saints. The Colts already have a ring, so, why not? As an entertainment exec and advertising writer, I usually watch the game for the halftime show and the ads anyway. (More on that halftime show later).

Which brings me to the advertisements. I tweeted my votes for my hashtags #adFAIL and #adWIN throughout the night. You can check my timeline here once your request is accepted (@putyrdreams1st).

Not big on Twitter? No problem.  Here’s a quick rundown of my favorites and reasons why:

VW: Because of Stevie Wonder.

Snickers: Because of Betty White and Abe Vigoda.

Audi TDI: Green Police. Every town needs them!

Dodge Charger: Great VO and totally unexpected WOW hero payoff of the product.

FloTV ‘Skirt’: way to make guys see why they need one–for when their lady brings them along to shop.

Google: Incredible narrative woven without a word spoken.

Dante’s Inferno: Contrast of seeing war waged in Hell while listening to Bill Withers ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Brilliant.

A few #adFAIL candidates: Bud Light’s human bridge; Tebow sacking his mom in an anti-abortion ad; Prince of Persia trailer with NO people of color playing Persians (but that’s really another Avatar-sized Hollywood fail).

My winner for #adWIN of the Game may surprise some readers, but yes, it’s the Doritos ‘Slap’ ad. It’s beautifully cast with attractive brown-skinned African Americans who are also solid actors; a shapely woman with a radiant smile, a cool guy with locks, and a cute kindergarten-age boy, set in a well appointed but modest home occupied by the mother and son.

You can watch the spot here.

For those who can’t see it, the guy brings the single mom flowers as he arrives to pick her up for a date. She goes to another room and tells her son to “be nice”; as she exits the guy eyes her legs and behind, with visions of conquest and sheer admiration of her assets visible on his face.

Her son picks up on this and is so upset, he drops his video game controller.  Oblivious, the  guy takes a seat on the couch and reaches for a Dorito in the bowl on the coffee table, making cocky small talk with the kid about beating him in a video game. In an instant, the kid smacks the guy in the face, then gets UP IN dude’s face, and admonishes: “keep yo hands off my momma, and keep yo hands off my Doritos.”

It’s shocking. It’s cute. It’s hilarious.

It’s also touched a nerve with Black men.

A couple tweets in reaction stood out for me:

from on-air personality @ToureX:  “The nasty Black kid protecting his mama was kinda cute but such a gross, silly stereotype. A foul, violent Black boy? Thanks Doritos.”

and @Bos_Naud as a re-tweet from Daily Math  blogger @Combat_Jack: RT @BosNaud: “The black man lost again in that Doritos commercial.”

So I talked to MY Black man about it, blogger @tmizy. He was about the same age as the Dorito kid when his mom became a single parent. His opinion was very insightful and much different. He said the spot may have bruised Black men’s egos, but beneath the humor lies a very un-funny “chin-check” about how cavalier Black men can be with women and children. He went further to say: “this is not a sterotypically violent Black boy. This is the reality of children with absentee Black fathers. He’s protecting his mother from another dude he just met who just looked at his mother’s ass. I was that mad as a kid before, but couldn’t do anything about it. The guy didn’t even ASK the kid for the Doritos!”

Both good points. Perhaps this commercial is striking a chord because it airs the dirty laundry of the single male who happens to be Black–and thinks he can roll up with flowers and impress the little man of the house; the same guy who ogles women in front of their sons. The guy had rendered the lil’ homie invisible-or at least a non-issue. Maybe that’s why he got slapped.

When I saw the spot, it came across as more of a comment on the dynamic between people in a situation than one only Black people experience. This is the difference between stereotyping and diverse casting. If the people had been cast as white, I totally buy a 5-6 year old who hits strangers. It’s what MOST kids do. Just like MOST men look at women’s bodies hungrily–especially when they think no one’s noticing. Further, the kid was set off; it wasn’t a random slap.

And listen: I’m a Black woman with a 9 year-old son; I’ve written award-winning advertising for a living for over a decade. I am extremely critical of advertising; I understand all the hidden messaging, nuances, etc. I get why brothers might be mad.

It holds up a mirror-and the reflection causes discomfort. Sure the kid could have mushed his forehead with his finger, or stopped his hand in a close-up beauty shot on the chips-but the ad campaign is “Snack Strong”. Passivity is not what’s called for. It also gets viewers talking about the ad–while never forgetting about the brand or the product. The job of advertising is to provoke: emotion, action, purchasing. #adWIN. Don’t think for a minute that guys haven’t felt like the men in the Dodge Charger spot or the FloTV ‘shopping’ spot: Exposed. Confronted.  Because Doritos accomplished and revealed so much in :30 seconds while hawking their bag of chips, they win.

Now that halftime show? Aside from the spectacular lighting direction and sound, The Who was an overall Super Bowl #Fail. As for The Who, my question is The Why? There was no mention of a new album or tour; no commercial for them after the set. I know they’ve sold over 100 million records, but their performance was just okay. Pete Twonsend and his belly were having a wardrobe malfunction all their own; not to mention half the viewers have no idea who The Who are. What you should know is that Pete Townsend is a registered sex offender across the pond–to the point where the arena’s neighbors received flyers disclosing that he’d be in the area on Super Bowl Sunday courtesy of the NFL. Not a good look.

No disrespect to the network or their selection, but I think we’ve paid for NippleGate at this point. I also think Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce’, Wyclef, Coldplay, or their outstanding opening act, Jay-Z would have been stronger choices to snack to at the half.

Congratulations to the underdogs, the Super Bowl 44 Champion New Orleans Saints. They are now on top. Here’s to the same being true for the Crescent City in the very near future. WHODAT!

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