By David Waters
Did you see the pro-life Super Bowl ad featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother Pam? Were you amused? Annoyed? Confused? If you blinked you probably missed the 30-second spot that ran after the Saints very first three-and-out possession in the first quarter.
You didn’t see the alternative version of the ad that Focus on the Family chose not to run. Ken Tucker, TV critic for Entertainment Weekly, wonders why FF chose the ad that was lighter, less effective and somewhat distracting (though funnier — Tebow tackles his mother).
“Tim tackles Mom; well, not hilarious, but kind of sweet . . . and even more distracting from whatever serious message Focus on the Family may want to convey,” Tucker wrote. “I think what we’re seeing here is FF backing away from a more aggressive statement in order to get its spots on CBS’ air. The result is classic bad advertising: The personalities on display distract from the message this deeply conservative organization wants to spread.”
UPDATE: According to a Barna Group survey, “While millions of Americans watched the commercial, many viewers expressed confusion regarding the commercial’s meaning and sponsor. In fact, when asked to describe what they thought the main message to be, one-fifth of viewers (20%) were not able to venture a guess about the ad’s main message. A minority of ad viewers described it as anti-abortion (38%) although the commercial never used that term or discussed that procedure. Another 19% thought it was about being pro-family or expressing that family is important.”
In the ad that didn’t run, Tim doesn’t tackle his mom. But neither ad tackles the issue of abortion head-on. Neither add includes the words abortion or pro-life. Both ads feature a mother talking about how grateful she is for her son, and vice versa. That’s exactly what Focus on the Family President Jim Daly said the ad would show.
“There’s nothing political about the ad,” Daly wrote for On Faith last week. “Nothing shocking or divisive. Nothing “anti” anything. It’s just an inspiring story from the Tebows – as much as can be fit into 30 seconds, anyway – about celebrating family and celebrating life.”
Watch the two ads. Which is more effective as a pro-life message? Which did you like best?
Both Tebow ads direct viewers to the Focus on the Family Web site to hear more about the family’s story. On the site, Daly interviews Pam and her husband Bob Tebow about “the platform God has given” Tim.
“We have reminded (Tim) countless times that God has a special plan for him. He spared him in the womb, He spared him since,” Pam says.
“I prayed for a preacher but God gave me a quarterback. .. but he is preaching,” Bob says.
His parents are preaching more.
Meanwhile, you also can watch a counter ad produced by Planned Parenthood, featuring Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner and former NFL football player Sean James promoting what they call “respect for women’s choices.”
In the one-minute ad, James says that he “respects and honors Mrs. Tebow’s decision” but every woman’s decision must be “valued … trusted and respected.”
Joyner says, “My daughter will always be my little girl. But I am proud everyday as I watch her grow up to be her own person, a smart, confident young woman. I trust her to take care of herself. We celebrate families by supporting our mothers, by supporting our daughters. By trusting women,” Joyner concluded.
Watch this ad. More or less effective than the Tebow ads?