Different sites are declaring different Super Bowl commercials the best in their various rankings today, but in reality there is only one clear winner. 84 Lumber, a Pittsburgh area-based company which aired its first-ever Super Bowl ad, is the only one to top 7 million views on YouTube and Instagram and have its web site crash due to the resulting controversy.
How did a lumber company which spent a total of $736,000 on marketing in 2015 become one of the biggest stories of Super Bowl LI? First it spent upwards of $15 million on a 90-second commercial that was not only technically and artistically brilliant, but also managed to press every single hot button connected to the immigration debate.
Then it watched as the commercial was banned by Fox before anyone actually saw it — it was deemed too controversial for Super Bowl viewers by the network. Was that on purpose? Unclear. But the company reworked it, reportedly taking out images of Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico in order for it to pass muster with the network.
So 84 Lumber ran the reworked 90-second ad on Sunday, then directed viewers to see the “extended” ad on its web site. The strategy worked — so much so that the site crashed for several hours. Here it is.
Just a brief sampling of the reaction to the full commercial:
— Martin Juarez (@calbear89) February 6, 2017
Still waiting for the Mexican lumber company commercial about US citizens struggling to pay their bills AND bill of Illegals too. #84lumber
— Thomas Paine (@Thomas1774Paine) February 6, 2017
@JulianCastro what a shame FOX & NFL rejected it. I was moved as I have had students who were "dreamers". Cannot build the wall!
— MM103C (@Gammiex4) February 6, 2017
So in general, anti-wall people are moved and pleased, pro-wall Trump supporters are howling mad. Unfortunately for the latter, you can’t boycott wood. But is all as it seems? In responding to angry tweets and Facebook posts, 84 Lumber had this to say:
— LoLa (@lolalissaa) February 6, 2017
So 84 Lumber tried to straddle the wall, as it turns out. But that seems to have failed. Sure, the mom and the little girl eventually find a door and walk through — meant to symbolize legal immigration. But viewers are only seeing the hardships of the journey, most empathizing with a mother who is just looking for a better life for her child. The door metaphor gets totally lost in the shuffle.
So unwittingly or not, 84 Lumber has created the most controversial, most watched ad of the Super Bowl — gaining the traction it wanted for its hiring campaign, and then some. It was a huge win for the company.
And it reminds us all that punching holes in walls is what enlightened societies do. 84 Lumber may not have set out to say that exactly, but that was the message nonetheless. Loud and clear.