Sunday night at Super Bowl LI, a commercial for 84 Lumber broadcast to televisions across the nation the story of a Spanish-speaking woman and her daughter seemingly trekking to the United States border. The brief TV spot ended on a cliffhanger, with the message, “See the conclusion at Journey84.com” displayed during the final few seconds. The building materials supply company was apparently not prepared for the intense interest in the duo’s fate, and its website crashed under the weight of traffic to the site. The company reeled in people from all over to see its full stance on immigration.
In the watered-down version of the commercial that was aired during the Super Bowl, viewers got to see the beginning of the journey. When you arrive at the 84 Lumber website, you’re greeted with a link to “Complete the Journey” and it includes a warning, “Contains Content Deemed Too Controversial for TV.”
Anticipation for the commercial began Friday, when news broke that 84 Lumber had to edit its original after being rejected by Fox. Initially, the commercial was to showcase the mother and daughter arriving at a giant, concrete wall with wooden doors that lead into the United States. The network deemed the ad too politically charged considering Donald Trump’s immigration policies including a travel ban that was recently challenged by a federal judge and an actual wall between Mexico and the United States.
Instead of just rehashing what it already put out at the sporting event, the company prioritized getting people to see the mother and daughter get past the wall.
Rob Shapiro, the chief client officer at the agency that worked with 84 Lumber on the commercial, told the Washington Post, “Ignoring the border wall and the conversation around immigration that’s taking place in the media and at every kitchen table in America just didnt seem right.”
In a behind-the-scenes video interview with the commercial’s director Cole Webley, he furthers that ethos. He says, “In our industry it’s really rare to have a client who’s brave enough tp put their name associated with such a bold statement. It’s not something you see every day. The opportunity to work with someone like that, who’s going to fight for what might not be the comfortable thing to do or say, but the right thing to do and say is a rare opportunity.”
Budweiser also caught attention for its marketing during Super Bowl, joining 84 Lumber with a pro-immigration narrative by showcasing the story of Adolphus Busch leaving Germany and arriving America during the 19th century. However, 84 Lumber’s commercial feels much more poignant because of today’s discussions.
The lumber and supply company definitely struck a chord, inciting a division between viewers on Twitter. Many were upset that a company would be spreading this sort of imagery.
Meanwhile, others rallied behind the company and supported its creative decision.
Regardless, it’s clear that 84 Lumber drummed up some political buzz during the Super Bowl, along with a halftime performance by Lady Gaga full of underlying subtext. The Patriots might have won the football game, but those often unheard also had their own tiny victories.