Last night’s Super Bowl advertising gives an interesting insight into the ongoing gun debate following the Newtown shooting in December. Super Bowl adverts have become a phenomenon in their own right, generating as much interest and discussion as the game itself – with a 30-second slot during yesterday’s game costing up to $4 million. At that price most advertising slots are only bought by large multinationals.
Yet, a campaign group called ‘Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ took the opportunity to make the case for tightening background checks on gun owners. The advert can be seen here:
Adverts with a political dimension are usually rejected during the Super Bowl, although an anti-abortion advert sponsored by the Christian charity ‘Focus on the Family’ was aired during the 2010 final.
Yesterday’s advert was sharply pointed at the political classes. Only broadcast in Washington DC, it avoided most of the thorny issues surrounding gun control, such as proposals to ban assault weapons. The specific loophole which the group is attacking allows unlicensed dealers to legally sell guns without carrying out background checks. A bill exploring the viability of extending background checks is due to be debated later this month.
The Super Bowl has come to symbolise more than just a physical contest between two teams. All the surrounding fanfare, with the hyper-production of the half-time show and Super Bowl adverts, reveal the cultural pulse of our American cousins. Consider, for example, the moral outrage which followed Janet Jackson’s so-called ‘wardrobe malfunction’. That an advert campaigning for tighter gun laws was aired last night reveals the extent to which the Sandy Hook massacre has become a watershed moment in America’s relationship with firearms.