This year, the Super Bowl was buzzworthy not just for the amazing come-from-behind-win. The talk between plays was about the many politically influenced ads. Much more than in year’s past, brands made their ads into political statements.
One of the most talked about was 84 Lumber’s ad portraying an immigrant mother and child. The spot was deemed too controversial and political by Fox, so it ended by directing viewers to the 84 Lumber website for the ‘conclusion’. (So many people did that their site ‘choked’ and could not handle the traffic.) At the video’s conclusion, text reads: “The Will to Succeed is Always Welcome Here.”
The company’s creative officer said: “We had a responsibility to do more than create a commercial, but to create something meaningful that would get people talking about the housing industry in a positive way. Ignoring the conversation that’s taking place in the media and at every kitchen table in America just didn’t seem right.”
Not surprisingly, many viewers took to social media to air their outrage or support. Wisely, 84 Lumber had a response ready. “We do not condone illegal immigration. The mother and daughter (in our ad) symbolizes grit, dedication and sacrifice, characteristics that we look for in our people at 84 Lumber.”
Another immigration themed ad was for an iconic brand and a fixture in the Big Game – Budweiser. The brand shied away from the idea that their ad was directly political, instead saying, “We created the commercial to highlight the ambition of our founder, Adolphus Busch, and his unrelenting pursuit of the American dream. This is a story about our heritage and the uncompromising commitment that goes into brewing our beer.” The company said in a release it hopes the ad will “resonate with today’s entrepreneurial generation — those who continue to strive for their dreams.”
Several companies and brands have also become unintentionally political since America’s new President was inaugurated. Nordstrom came under attack from the President and his staff for dropping his daughter’s clothing line. This again prompted vigorous support and opposition on social media for and against the retailer. It’s too early to tell if Nordstrom’s sales will take a hit from the President’s base of supporters.
Under Armour’s CEO recently praised the President’s business initiatives, while many athletes and high profile coaches who endorse Under Armour are speaking out against the President’s policies and behavior. (One notable exception is Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback and Under Armour athlete who counts Trump as a friend.) The controversy prompted the Under Armour CEO to take out a full page newspaper ad to ‘clarify his remarks’.
We’re only in the first month of the new Presidency, and an era of divisiveness. Only time will tell how many brands will choose to jump into the political arena for better or worse, or if advertiser’s political strategies will help or hurt their brand or reputation.