Amid ads for Pokemon, AXE body spray, Bud Light, and Skittles, the National Football League’s Super Bowl championship this Sunday (Feb. 7) will feature a powerful public service announcement against domestic violence.
The ad is a simple portrayal of a text message exchange between two women, one of whom invites the other to join her at a Super Bowl party. Her friend says she can’t come because “Jacob is in one of his moods.” Asked whether she is okay, only the unnerving bubble that indicates texting shows up.
The ad was released by the nonprofit organization NO MORE and devised by New York-based advertising agency Grey. The NFL donated airtime and paid for the production costs.
It’s actually the second time the NFL has sponsored a PSA of this sort. The first, during Super Bowl XLIX, came on the heels of a domestic abuse scandal involving NFL running back Ray Rice, which rocked the league in 2014 (and quickly receded into the public’s memory). This year, a developing scandal involving Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was accused by his ex-girlfriend of assaulting her, seems to have barely cast a pall on the NFL’s pre-game festivities taking place in host city San Francisco.
The new PSA “shows the importance of paying attention to subtleties of communication,” Virginia Witt, NO MORE’s director, tells Quartz. It’s different from last year’s commercial, which featured a haunting 911 phone call. ”Texting is the way that most young people are communicating today…it is the way that relationships, be it romantic or friendships, are conducted,” Witt says, noting that teens and young adults are among the most affected by couple violence.
Widely cited statistics that Super Bowl Sunday was the worst day of the year for domestic abuse have been debunked. But Witt tells Quartz it is still a crucial day to air the PSA, because “it’s a time when all Americans gather with their friends and family in their living rooms … it’s a big slice of America that can be reached.”
The Super Bowl is, in fact, the most-watched TV event in America, and ads are the main event for most viewers. Following last year’s ad, Witt says, NO MORE saw a tidal wave of responses, so much that the group had to change its servers to accommodate the heightened interest in its website, which provides information on domestic violence. Hotlines around the country reported there was an increase in calls from survivors around the time of the SuperBowl.
According to a study conducted by NO MORE and the Avon Foundation in 2013, one in three women report being a victim of domestic violence, and one in two Americans over 15 know someone who has been a victim of it.