The Politics of Super Bowl Advertising

February 7, 2017
Jim Scott Polsinelli, Senior Vice President & Creative Director

Who would have thought that white-hot public affairs issues would dominate this year’s Super Bowl?

Brands addressed the political hot buttons of the day. Audi, Budweiser, and 84 Lumber took on gender equality, immigration, and domestic hiring, respectively—topics usually not associated with your effervescent Super Bowl spots.

While most marketers try to be bi-partisan, more and more brands are getting people talking about serious subjects. Their commercials aren’t just about hawking products anymore; they’ve become a discussion platform. The brilliantly executed Audi’s “Daughter” takes on the role of equal pay for women. Some lambasted it for being too preachy. Others love it because it’s raising the discussion on gender equality and lets Audi draw a line in the sand.

Anheuser-Busch certainly couldn’t have anticipated the President’s travel ban when it created “Born the Hard Way.” The spot chronicles Adophus Busch’s arduous trek from Germany to St. Louis to brew beer. Whether you see this as a political statement on immigration or embodying America as the land of opportunity, you’ll have to agree it stirs the pot.

The most controversial, divisive, and probably most expensive recruitment spot ever was 84 Lumber’s “Let the Journey Begin.” Similar to the Bud ad, this features a mother and daughter travelling from Mexico to America. Fox rejected the original version, because it showed a wall blocking the family from entering America. According to Michael Brunner, CEO of Brunner, the agency that created the commercial, “84 Lumber is … a company looking for people with grit, determination and heart, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they look like.”

Agree with these marketers or not, you have to admire their ability to maximize the Super Bowl platform with thought-provoking ads. Their millions spent did not go unnoticed. Maybe next year we’ll see the Budweiser frogs debating health care policy.

Jim Scott Polsinelli is a Senior Vice President and Creative Director at DDC Public Affairs.

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