Super Bowl Ads
Boo and I arrived home today (Monday) from a little R & R in Florida. We spent time with our daughter and family in Tampa Bay…now referred to by the locals as Champa Bay! Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers soundly defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifty-fifth edition of professional football’s Super Bowl. I had a keen interest in the game, but also in the $5.6 million per 30 seconds ads. Keep in mind this is the cost paid to CBS and does not reflect the millions spent to produce the ad itself.
Why are companies willing to fork out so much money on marketing? Well, there appears to be good reasons!
A research study showed that children overwhelmingly prefer the taste of food that comes in McDonald’s wrappers. Kids sampled identical foods in packaging from McDonald’s and in similar, but unbranded, packaging. The kids were then asked if the food tasted the same or if one tasted better. The unbranded foods lost the taste test every time. Even apple juice, carrots, and milk tasted better to the kids when taken from the familiar wrappings of the Golden Arches. The “experts” concluded this kind of advertising literally indoctrinates young children into a baseless preference for certain products. Children, it seems, literally do judge food by its cover. And they prefer the cover they know.
Advertising is often about convincing an audience that things not only can but should be judged by their covers. The kids in the study were not merely saying they preferred the taste of McDonald’s food. They believed the McDonald’s nugget tasted better than an identical, yet unidentified nugget. From our earliest years, branding is directive in telling us what we should think and feel, who we are, what we love…essentially what really matters.
Lest we blame television and marketing entirely for the schemes of brand recognition, we should recall that advertising (even at $11.2 million a minute) continues simply because it works. Millenia before Madison Avenue marketers were persuading customers to judge by image, wrapping, and covers, we were already judging by these methods.
When Samuel was looking for the person God would ordain as king, he had a particular image in mind. In fact, when he first laid eyes on Eliab, Samuel confidently thought that this was the one God had chosen. But God said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees, man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16.6-7)
The preschoolers’ study should sound an alarm. Adults may clearly see that a carrot in McDonald’s packaging is still inherently a carrot. Yet how often are we, too, blindsided by mere wrappings, the cultural repetitions that mold us, the images and liturgies that shape our affections? Is the mistake of a child in believing the food tastes better in a yellow wrapper really any different than our own believing we are better people dressed in the right credentials, draped by the latest fashion, delivering our camp’s worldview? Covered in whatever comforts us or completely stripped of our many wrappings, are we not the same people underneath?
There is one exception. Paul writes of a kind of clothing that changes one from the inside out. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28) Dressed in the righteousness of Jesus, a person is wrapped in the identity of the human Son of God. They are given a new covering, new life, new robes worn only by Christ, and thus, like Him, they are made most truly human.
Unlike the allure and costliness of well-marketed wrappings, Christ’s robes are free. The beautiful and difficult word of Christianity is that Christ requires only that we come without costume or pretense. The many robes we collect, the covers with which we judge the world, we must be willing to give Him. He takes from tired shoulders robes of self-importance and false security. He tears from determined grasps those garments of self-pity and shame. And then, He clothes the needful soul with garments of salvation, arrays us in robes of righteousness, gives us the promise of His presence, and reminds us that we wear His name from the inside out.
~ Pastor Mullinax