One area sorely lacking is Asian American Pacific Islander representation.
Jay Kim, former president and current board member for the Asian American Advertising Federation, said it was a missed opportunity for no marketer to use “Everything Everywhere All at Once” star Michelle Yeoh, who is nominated for the Best Actress Oscar.
Kim said Asian representation often gets left out of advertising and especially in Super Bowl commercials. By 2024, Asian American buying power is projected to reach $1.6 trillion and last year, Asian American households spent 11% more annually on retail than the average U.S. household, according to Advertising Week.
“Asian Americans are very good consumers,” Kim said. “They are very loyal; they spend the most on online shopping.” Still, he said brands “don’t pay attention. They don’t want to invest” in Asian representation.
Accessibility and representation of people with disabilities
Representation of people with disabilities has also historically been lacking in Super Bowl commercials.
In 2022, Toyota was the only brand to tell the story of a person with a disability, and even that one was met with some criticism from some disability advocates, who said it edged on “inspiration porn,” the portrayal of people with disabilities as being inspirational to able-bodied people.
Not much progress, if any, appears to have been made in front of the camera this year, but several brands including Procter & Gamble, General Motors, FanDuel and the National Football League said they were making their commercials more accessible to view by adding subtitles or closed-captioning (text explanations of what’s going on) and audio descriptions (or ads narrated through audio) for people who are deaf or partially deaf. The audio-captioned ads will appear on a separate channel.
FanDuel’s agency Wieden+Kennedy noted, “We have made a big and successful push with our client to close caption every spot we produce so our creative is accessible to all.”
A spokesperson for P&G also said it is adding captions to its YouTube versions and the ads airing after the Big Game.
Dexcom, a company that develops glucose monitoring systems, sought to help people dealing with diabetes feel seen. The 30-second spot stars Nick Jonas, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 13, promoting the company’s latest Dexcom G7 technology.
This is the company’s second Super Bowl appearance after airing a similar commercial with Jonas in 2021.
Generally, though, Big Game ads rarely feature people with disabilities or those with chronic conditions, and the majority of commercials overall don’t do a good job accurately portraying their lives when they do, said Storm Smith, a deaf creative consultant and creative director and a former producer and diversity inclusion accessibility lead for BBDO L.A. She said often brands go about portraying people with disabilities with pity when society should be past that.
“No, we’re here,” Smith said. “We can drink beer. We can laugh. We can go out with our friends. We deserve stronger storytelling about us. Not just in front of the camera but behind the camera, too. Who’s writing it? Who’s directing it? Are they just writing it based on their unpacked biases?”
She said good storytelling “does heal and challenge misconceptions” and if that’s not being done, it’s also a big missed opportunity for business. The total spending power in the U.S. of working-age people with disabilities is about $490 billion, which is similar to that of other significant market segments, such as African Americans ($501 billion) and Hispanics ($582 billion), according to a 2018 report from American Institute for Research (AIR).
LGBTQ+ representation lags
Similarly, representation of the LGBTQ+ community within Super Bowl ads hasn’t seen much progress.
GLAAD reported that the number of 2022 Super Bowl commercials featuring LGBTQ+ people was down 90% from two years prior. In 2020, there were 11 LGBTQ+ celebrities featured.
This year, nearly none of the brands surveyed provided specifics on how they are progressing as it relates to LGBTQ+ representation.
GLAAD has predominantly focused its efforts on on-screen representation and the storylines of the ads.
GLAAD Chief Communications Officer Rich Ferraro said the organization will be watching the Super Bowl again this year to analyze the ads for LGBTQ+ representation. The organization did host its second annual event on Wednesday with the NFL—“A Night of Pride with GLAAD and NFL”—to discuss the future of LGBTQ+ inclusion in professional sports and the NFL’s commitment to its LGBTQ+ players.
This year’s LGBTQ+ representation does not seem to be improving.
“And though we’re in teaser season for brand presence and content, unless I’m missing something, no brands are foreshadowing a spotlight on LGBTQ+ stars or cultural themes in this year’s spots,” Graham Nolan, co-chair of Do the WeRQ, a platform for unlocking the creative potential of LGBTQIA+ talent in advertising and marketing, wrote in an op-ed for Muse by Clio. “(I thought we had one, but then remembered Mr Peanut isn't gay. Sigh.) I suspect this doesn’t bode well for the volume of LGBTQ+ talent brought in behind the lens of the spots either.”