This Sunday evening, the run-of-the-mill set of Super Bowl ads will be interrupted by two presidential candidates. Former Mayor of New York City and entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg is spending $11 million to talk about gun violence, while President Donald Trump is spending the same amount to toot his own horn.
Politicized commercials aren’t a novelty. And the buzz around Super Bowl ads after-the-fact points to them being a fantastic medium for political advocacy. But only a certain type of these commercials fit into the context of a football game. Those in the stadium are focused on the entertainment value of this event and have certain expectations: they get to eat hot dogs, be riled up throughout the game and watch amusing ads.
What they will definitely not be expecting is a somber piece about gun violence and another instance of Trump celebrating his apparent achievements in office. Though they’re only a minute long, these ads will likely put a damper on the rest of the evening’s events.
But these commercials have far more important implications than their being mood killers. They are reflective of the times we’re in. Capitalism, as it is currently being operated, has allowed the wealthy to hoard the country’s wealth. With money comes power, especially in the political arena.
The only two presidential candidates who are putting out ads in the 2020 Super Bowl are also, not coincidentally, the only billionaires in the race. Bloomberg and Trump’s enormous financial resources provide them an opportunity to further their political campaigns during one of the most viewed events of the year. The playing field is not level — presidential candidate Andrew Yang didn’t even raise enough money to qualify for the last debate.
Bloomberg’s bit about gun control is not a sincere act of political advocacy. It is propaganda reliant on the exploitation of a supporter’s tragic life event to portray himself as a reliable proponent of gun control. The emphasis on his track record with guns instead of a subtle nod to his campaign is indubitable evidence.
And Trump is no better despite being the incumbent. While being embroiled in the impeachment proceedings, he isn’t taking advantage of this huge promotion to advance whatever integrity left his supporters believe in. Instead, he is putting on his usual show of reminding everyone how he did the bare minimum of keeping the economy alive after Obama’s efforts.
Trump says the best is yet to come. We’re looking forward to next year’s ads.