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Tubi or Not To Be: The Super Bowl Ad that Got Us Talking

Tubi duped the nation with its 2023 Super Bowl ad. However, the publicity wasn’t as positive as the company expected.

Orange Tubi logo against a keyboard. Credit: Ralf Liebhold/Shutterstock

For viewers in America, the Super Bowl serves two purposes. The first is displaying the sheer strength of our finest football players and deciding who deserves a fancy ring. The second reveals just how much money brands have. For many companies, the Super Bowl is a chance to advertise products in ways never seen before, with the most creative ad campaign winning dozens of customers for years. However, in terms of stirring up a buzz, the streaming service Tubi crushed the competition. 

Intending to capitalize on the shock of fans nationwide, Tubi created a clever ad featuring a false Super Bowl interview, which suddenly cut to another channel. This format generated a lot of conversation around the brand; however, only some were positive. Bartenders, waitresses, and even spouses took to social media, revealing the awful things said and done to them following the ad’s airing. 

This begs the question: Was the ad genius or a total misread of its audience?

15 Seconds of Fame

@Tubi/YouTube

The ad began by panning back to the Super Bowl announcers Kevin Burckhardt and Greg Olsen, who excitedly informed the audience that they were ready to return to some football. Halfway through this speech, a toolbar popped up at the bottom of the tv screen. The cursor clicked over to a shiny black Tubi application and selected it. This took viewers off the Super Bowl channel and showcased a quick rundown of new shows on the Tubi app. Before the viewers knew it, the screen returned to the original channel, and the game began.

This clever marketing strategy cemented the ad in many people’s minds and even earned Tubi the Super Clio Award. This is an honor given to the most memorable and creative ad the day after the event, another accreditation for Tubi’s advertising team. Following the ad’s airing, social media hits for Tubi also skyrocketed. People across the country posted hilarious videos of how their families, friends, and viewing parties reacted, with many comments highlighting how duped they had been by the ad. 

This generated the publicity Tubi had been looking for and put the streaming service on the map. However, not all of the comments were positive.

Famous or Infamous?

The Tubi ad proved how memorable a joke could be when shared between friends. At my watch party, everyone immediately hopped up and searched for the remote, even though I don’t even have Tubi on my tv. Unfortunately, this atmosphere didn’t carry over to many public places. 

In bars and restaurants nationwide, waitresses experienced varying levels of physical and emotional assault as customers revolted at the sight of a supposed channel change. Some reported beer glasses being thrown, and others took to social media while crying in the break room after dozens of people screaming at them. A woman’s story even went viral on Reddit after she broke up with her boyfriend following his reaction. Not only this, but a wife revealed that her husband had punched their teenage daughter – leaving her with a black eye – when he thought she was holding the remote. These stories blew up on social media, creating a sub-conversation about domestic violence. 

@chellyreed1345/Tik Tok

Aurora…Star, a prominent Tik Tok influencer, revealed exactly what she thought about the ad in her recent video, which she captioned with a study on domestic violence during sports events. In the clip, she explains that the reactions to the Tubi commercial were not new and that while she doesn’t blame the company for the anger their ad caused, it is crucial to note that fifteen seconds is enough to make any situation dangerous. 

@aurora…star/Tik Tok

Many creators who stitched her video echoed this sentiment. They shared their own stories of domestic abuse following the Tubi ad, exposing a disturbing pattern of violence. They urged women to be careful with partners that grew excessively angry and informed Tubi that they needed to carefully consider their jokes in the future.

Posts and Protest

Tubi has yet to release an official statement about the ad. However, many are calling for a public acknowledgment of its impact. 

Rico Bosco, a prominent and caustic reporter for Barstool Sports, stated that even he thought the ad “went too far.”

You don’t mess with certain things… Don’t fuck with the people. Don’t screw up parties. Don’t mess with happiness. Have a sense of the moment.

Rick Bosco, Barstool Sports

Bosco wasn’t the only one who shared this sentiment. Andrea Grimes, a Texas reporter, also shared similar thoughts in her Twitter post. 

Yet, many other articles, such as those written by Business Insider, Hollywood Reporter, and the New York Post, praised the risky format of the ad, congratulating the company on its success and contributing to the growing pool of mixed reviews.

Genius Yet Self-Conscious

Bosco and Grimes admitted that Tubi achieved the ultimate marketing goal: to stand out. Across the board, the publicity garnered by the ad accomplished its goals effectively and memorably. Viewers will be talking about the Tubi ad for weeks to come, and it did ultimately bring awareness to the growing problem of domestic violence

However, the outcome of the Tubi ad reached farther than the company could ever have imagined. With the power of advertising in the modern age, it is doubly essential for companies to consider the safety of viewers watching in all circumstances. While the Tubi ad had many laughing at themselves for being tricked (myself included), we must remember that it wasn’t so simple for others. 

Domestic violence is a growing epidemic in America. To properly support those that need it, everyone must be willing to help in whatever ways possible, even if that means companies don’t get new additions to their trophy cases.

Written By

Laurie Griffith is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Florida studying English with minors in Mass Communication and Classical Studies. In her free time, she enjoys devouring young adult novels, baking poorly, and practicing gymnastics with her club team.

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