People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)’s commercial for this Sunday’s Super Bowl has been banned by network NBC for being too sexual, the UK Guardian reported Jan. 28.
The ad features lingerie-clad women licking and rubbing various vegetables and the words, “Studies show vegetarians have better sex.” NBC’s advertising standards executive Victoria Morgan said the ad “depicts a level of sexuality exceeding [NBC’s] standards” and asked PETA to edit racy portions of the commercial, including a shot of a woman licking a piece of broccoli while holding her hand over her breast.
It’s surprising NBC would make this move as the commercial is no more degrading to women than many other ads that air during the Super Bowl.
PETA has gained a reputation for questionable ads—such as one comparing the murder of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus last summer to animal slaughtering—and it’s possible NBC didn’t want to give the organization, usually perceived as militant, primetime coverage.
But it seems out of character for a network to refuse an ad by a group able to pay for the highly coveted spot.
Perhaps the network found the ad distasteful and is trying to reshape the Super Bowl’s image, which has gained notoriety for highly sexual commercials and halftime shows.
Preventing the PETA ad from airing might attract a wider audience and reach out to children who enjoy watching the sport.
If the network is trying to clean up its programming, the ad ban must be seen as a first step and NBC should review other Super Bowl commercials as well.
PETA’s ad is so outrageous it can be interpreted as tongue in cheek. It’s possible the group meant it as a critique of the extensive use of sex in advertising.
The ad could be interpreted as empowering for women because there are no men in the commercial and the women are taking their sexuality into their own hands, literally. But, at the same time, the scantily-clad women continue to play into heterosexual men’s notions of sexuality.
Even if PETA had an underlying message, it’s unlikely the demographic watching the commercial would pick up its nuances and see it as anything more than a display of eye candy—or PETA’s ingenious marketing ploy.
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