During this year’s Super Bowl, some advertisers had something more substantive to say than “Buy this product.” Instead of shying away from the country’s politically charged zeitgeist, brands like 84 Lumber, Anheuser-Busch and Audi aired commercials that seized on it.
Building supply company 84 Lumber produced a 90-second spot titled “The Journey Begins” that chronicled a Mexican family’s path to enter the United States. But the ad’s own journey preceded its second-quarter appearance. An original version featured a wall — the kind that President Donald Trump wants to build to bar illegal immigrants from Mexico — and was itself barred entry into the game’s broadcast. The brand and its agency Brunner produced a revised version that made it into the game and linked to the full version online (embedded below).
“The reality is we live in a very politically charged environment. But I don’t think that means brand should stay away from saying anything controversial, though,” said Brunner CEO Michael Brunner in an emailed statement. “If everyone else is playing it safe, those that take a risk have an opportunity to stand out even more. We believe if a client is sharing a genuine message they’re passionate about, the risk is usually worth the reward.”
84 Lumber was rewarded with so many people trying to pull up the full ad online that the brand had to throttle its site. The site was able to serve 150,000 requests per minute, but it received more than 300,000 requests within the first minute of the commercial’s airing, according to a Brunner spokesperson. “It took about 10 minutes to fully resolve,” the spokesperson said. In the meantime, 84 Lumber used social ads to push viewers to watch the video on YouTube. An hour after the ad aired, 84 Lumber’s site received more than six million requests.
At almost 99,000 mentions across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the game, 84 Lumber received the most social mentions of any Super Bowl advertiser, according to social analytics firm Brandwatch.
But 84 Lumber wasn’t the only Super Bowl advertiser whose ad’s political undertones sparked discussion online. Audi and Budweiser were also among the top 5 most-mentioned advertisers, with roughly 85,000 and 63,000 mentions, respectively. Audi’s “Daughter” put a spotlight on the wage gap between women and men, as well as the company’s all-male board of directors. And Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” documented co-founder and German immigrant Adolphus Busch’s journey to the United States.