What are you watching when you watch the Super Bowl?

Super Bowl study © Media Education Foundation 2015

Hypercommercialism is rampant in the media we consume, but nowhere is this more apparent than the Super Bowl. In a 2015 study, MEF found that during the broadcast of the big game, the ball was in play for a mere 17 minutes and 30 seconds, while commercials and on-screen promotions took up 48 minutes, 34 seconds. This means that this Sunday night, viewers will spend three times as much time watching ads as they will watching actual play.

This is a dream come true for corporate America. Especially given that a lot of viewers will be sitting down in front of their televisions with wings and pizza specifically to watch the ads. Just how big a business is Super Bowl advertising? For a single 30-second ad during the 2017 Super Bowl, companies will pay a stunning $5 million, with $480 million projected to be spent in total.

This annual advertising bonanza offers a teachable moment, a way into discussing and debating how commercialism shapes our media culture and American culture more broadly. Now would be a great time to watch one of the below MEF films to provoke deeper thinking about the social effects of mass consumerism.