Every commercial is a Super Bowl commercial now

The problem with the patriotism sales pitch

(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

The Super Bowl is known for its funny ads, but it's also become an annual showcase of what Fast Company labeled back in 2014 as "the sadvertisement." You know the ones — they're the ads featuring soldiers returning home from war, or the Budweiser Clydesdales paying tribute to 9/11 victims, or Johnny Cash reciting a poem about the ragged old flag, or Clint Eastwood walking down an alley talking about how the recession has affected the auto industry. They're the ads that make you weepy, and proud to be an American. They're the ads that suggest it's practically your patriotic duty to buy a Ram.

These days, turning on the TV amid the coronavirus crisis means watching a bombardment of Super Bowl-ready sadvertisements. There might be no American sports on at all, but advertisers are more eager than ever to manipulate customers by playing to their sense of shared identity. In "these troubled times," Americans are brought together … by Taco Bell, by Walmart, by Uber, by Apple, by Facebook. The ads worryingly conflate our coronavirus response with patriotism, a tactic long proven effective for making a sale but now potentially contributing to our botched response to the outbreak.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at TheWeek.com. She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.