February 3 2017
For many of the millions of Americans who will watch the Super Bowl, the entertainment is as much about the commercials as the football. Our collective memories of notable Super Bowl ads, from Apple’s 1984 introduction of the Macintosh to Budweiser’s frogs, often last longer than the highlights of the games themselves.
As more Americans cut the cord with TV, and turn to commercial-free viewing options like Netflix, the Super Bowl provides a once-a-year occasion to grab the nation’s attention, raising the stakes for advertisers.
Companies compete for the attention of our diverse country. One hotly debated political question is the status of women in America, specifically when it comes to equal pay, and what actions the government should or should not take to benefit women. The post-inauguration Women’s March in DC, for example, was littered with posters demanding equal pay for women.
In its Super Bowl ad, Audi chose a side in this debate by perpetuating the myth that women make only 79 cents for every dollar a man makes in the same job. The ad features a young girl relentlessly competing against boys in a cart race while her father’s voice asks questions about the world in which his daughter is growing up:
What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her that her grandpa is worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets.”
Then the screen flashes, “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work.”
The ad has already amassed more than 4 million views since being released on Wednesday. Audi has succeeded in getting the nation’s attention. But not all of that attention is positive. There are 36,261 negative thumbs down reactions verses a mere 2,956 thumbs up reactions on YouTube where the video was posted.
Some people slammed Audi for its message in the YouTube comments section—from calling the ad “100% unadulterated liberal propaganda” to one commentator writing,“What do I tell my daughter? Tell her that if she wants to earn equal pay, she should get a degree in Engineering instead of Gender Studies.”
Another commentator responded back to the ad with a different set of questions:
First, why would you ever tell your daughter that she is worth less than any man she would ever meet? And why would you ever insult your own wife and mother by telling your daughter that they were worth less than their male counterparts? Also, why would you ever tell her that a person's value is based solely on how much money they earned?"
They are right to critique Audi. Audi posted the video on Twitter with this tweet:
The line that women make 79 cents on the dollar men make has been debunked. The statistic behind that line, which by the way is now at 82 cents, is a comparison of the median earnings of women and men who work in full-time wage and salary jobs. It does not compare women and men in the same job with the same education, years of experience, or hours worked, for example. These are choices that individuals make and choices that they should be able to make, even if a choice leads to a lower salary.
When questioned on Twitter whether Audi pays women less, Audi countered that women are paid equally when certain factors are added to the equation—likely the very same factors that its ad ignores:
@TueborFrog When we account for all the various factors that go into pay, women at Audi are on par with their male counterparts.— Audi (@Audi) February 1, 2017
While New England quarterback Tom Brady has desperately tried to keep politics, specifically his relationship with President Donald Trump, out of the Super Bowl, Audi has found a way to inject politics into the conversation.
The Audi ad provides a powerful visual of a girl competing with the boys. No surprise, the daughter ends up winning the race. What could have been an empowering message is transformed into a message that young girls are victims in our society. Audi should have left the political message out and stuck to the racing.