Super Bowl commercials are a thing. In some ways they get more hype than the game (especially in this last instance where the game was a blowout). They are insanely expensive to purchase and increasingly are becoming platforms for signaling the values of a company. That seems to be the latest trend. Make it less about the product and more about whatever social issue the company is championing.
That brings me to the best commercial of this last Super Bowl. It was from Toyota and I am not sure they meant to accomplish what they did but take a minute to watch it before reading a few observations I have about the commercial.
Good right? I'm a nerd and so I noticed a few things that I'd like to point out that make this a great commercial.
1. The visual story is great. The commercial takes you on a journey. I had no idea who Jessica Long was before watching this commercial and you don't need to know who she is. The story is told through what you see. You discover some things about her and just watching takes you on a journey through her life. The fact that she is swimming through the scene is a sort of visual reflection between what was and what has become. We are able to follow her through her journey and see that her success in the pool had it's roots a long time ago. We saw images of challenges she had to overcome and the kind of home she had. We see the story in a powerful and compelling way that brings us along.
2. It tells a compelling story we can all relate to. The visual story telling is powerfully matched with a compelling script that brings you into the story. We all know what it is to get a phone call we have been waiting for. Anyone with kids knows the excitement of a child being born. We have all experienced the letdown of bad news when we were expecting good news or hearing good news that wasn't what we expected. We have all had obstacles we have had to overcome or things in our life that seemed daunting. We have had to make decisions that were hard and that would require sacrifice without knowing the outcome. Some of us have gotten devastating medical diagnosis that changed our lives. The beautiful imagery paired with the powerful dialogue leaves us identifying with the parents and implicitly leaves us wondering what we would have done in that situation. It draws us into the story on an emotional level.
3. The powerful story is that Jessica's life might have been very different had it not been for her parents. This ad highlights the power of loving parents. You see the girl learning to walk with prosthetic legs through a door and as the camera pans, you see her mother sitting on the couch smiling and encouraging her. As she grows and is swimming, you see from her perspective as she catches a glimpse of her parents at the side of the pool standing in front of the crowd cheering her on. A dad and a mom. Involved in her life. Loving her. Encouraging her. Nurturing her. You see her arrive at the end of her race, remove her goggles and see her mom excited to adopt her in spite of her physical deformity and her dad sitting at the table anxiously listening at the table. The mom sits down and says "we can't wait to meet her" as she reaches for the hand of her husband across the table and as she sees that, a warm, loving, appreciative smile crosses Jessica's face. In the final scene, she swims off in a kind of endless sea. The message is powerful. The trajectory of her life has been powerfully influenced by her parents and their love. She will live a legacy they left her.
4. It's pro-life without meaning to be. At one point while the adoption agent is explaining the situation, she says "her life won't be easy". That is the battle cry of pro-abortion advocates. Whether it's economic hardship or physical limitation, the culture associates love with making the hard choice to murder or overlook a baby who will face challenges. As if life is easy for anyone. Life is not easy. We all face challenges and difficulty. Parenting is about sacrifice and love. Jessica's parents recognized personhood means value. I don't know if Toyota meant for this to be a pro-life commercial, but that's what they accomplished. They pointed out that situation doesn't determine value. That Jessica had value just as she was. That she was in need of loving parents. That they were given a gift and could love and care for her with her challenges. There is an implicit invitation to imagine if they had overlooked her or said no. To consider if her birth mom in Siberia had just aborted her. Consider if her birth mom found out about her deformity before birth and had decided that she wouldn't have a life worth living and aborted her. That's what this commercial calls us to consider. Does Jessica feel that she would have been better off never having been born? Would her parents have had the joy of welcoming her into their home and loving her? Would young men and women who suffer from physical limitations have seen Jessica as an inspiration that drove them to overcome limitations and enjoy life? How much would have been different... how much would have been lost if her birth mom took the view that so many in our society take about the value of each life in the womb? The message is every life is worth living.
5. It highlights the power of adoption. Birth parents are not always capable or competent to raise children. That doesn't mean the life of the child is not valuable. That doesn't mean that abortion should be an option. There is an alternative that is infinitely loving. It is loving to give life to a child you cannot (or are unwilling to) care for and then give the gift of adoption to someone who is capable of and willing to give that child a family. There is sacrifice involved on the part of the birth parent. There is selflessness involved. Every life has value and therefore, we as Christians should be about adoption. Adoption is a beautiful thing and this commercial powerfully highlights that. This family in the commercial was not put together biologically but the family in the commercial is a family. And adoption changed all of their lives. They all benefited. Other's benefited. We have the blessing of knowing many families who have adopted and it is challenging and beautiful.
As a church, we have started an adoption fund. The goal of this fund is to raise money to support adoption and, Lord willing, be able to fully fund adoptions in the future. This is important because believers in Christ have been adopted into the family of God through faith. God is an adopting God. Adoption images the gospel in a powerful way. Part of being pro-life is being pro-adoption. We want to be active in pursuing that. We want to encourage that and remove financial barriers that might keep a family who wants to adopt from doing. It's pro-gospel, pro-life and is a blessing to the parents, the child, the church, and the community. If you would like to help in this and financially support this effort, you can do so by clicking here and selecting our adoption fund. All donations are tax deductible and 100% of what's given will go to fund adoptions.
Jon is husband to Carlee, Papa to Finleigh, Ainsley, and Olivia, a pastor at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Ne, and co-host of The Pastor Discussions Podcast