This year’s Super Bowl commercial breaks didn’t just showcase the biggest ads in the US; brands made a stand against the current political situation, writes Tonic’s Joao Camacho
Let’s address the big orange elephant in the room and look at the ‘post-Trump’ Super Bowl, the first since the US elections last November.
The American football match may be a sporting highlight of the year, but its commercial breaks are also high on the advertising industry’s can’t-miss lists, as a launch pad for the biggest, most expensive and most talked-about ads of the year. This year the commercials showed a not-so-subtle side of brands’ concerns about Trump’s moves against women’s rights, religious rights, social rights, and well, almost every right known to man.
This year, some ballsy brands stepped out from their shelves and showrooms and used one of the most expensive primetimes in the world to give a voice to women’s rights and many other rights threatened by the current administration. Let’s have a look at some of the best examples:
Audi – Daughter
Audi has done an amazing job over the past year of storytelling in service of its vehicles, especially in the US. For the 2017 Super Bowl, it went beyond that—advocating for equal pay for women in a beautifully crafted commercial. Its political stance has brought out plenty of haters, but the brand has also been feeling the love after spending its budget on a message bigger than itself. That’s right: women’s rights – Check.
84 Lumber – Journey
This story is the most fascinating of this 2017 Super Bowl and it’s also one of the most compelling ones. Building supplies firm 84 Lumber has never spent much on advertising, but it bet a 90-second spot on the most expensive stage in the world. With a pro-immigration script rejected by Fox, they split the film in two – showing half during the game, and half online. The 84 Lumber CEO Maggie Hardy Magerko said the ad is not pro-immigration, that she is a supporter of the president and his agenda, and that it came out wrong. But I guess she should fire her agency because it came across as the exact opposite. For an ad that’s pro-Trump, Mrs. Magerko, your commercial sounds completely anti-Trump. Immigration – Check.
It’s a 10 – Four Years
This year, the funniest political surprise was in the It’s a 10 hair-care commercial. Nothing in the brand’s history would have hinted at the hilarious result of this 30-second film. It blends politics and humour to perfection. As the voiceover claims: “America, we are in for at least four years of awful hair, so it’s up to you to do your part by making up for it with great hair.” Clearly the brand executives are displeased but will stay with America for a better future, even if it’s just hair wise. Politics – Check.
Budweiser – Born the Hard Way
This commercial gives a powerful spin on the national debate on immigration. As Budweiser visits its origins, it takes us back to the very beginning. The story there is, once again, the American dream. Titled “Born the Hard Way”, this commercial goes deep into the battle over immigration, another highly relevant theme given President Trump’s executive order that temporarily barred entry into the country for refugees and most travellers from seven countries. Immigration – Check.
Being political might not be the smartest way to go for brands; it never was and it never will be. But brands are doing something right when it comes to rights (pun intended). They’re standing by humans, standing by their beliefs, their rights and their passions. In a currently virulent America, brands just got virulent too and it made them more relevant.
Joao Camacho is creative director at Tonic International