Were you fooled by the true political message behind any Super Bowl ads? #AlternativeFacts

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market


The day after the Super Bowl is the usual time for people to talk about Super Bowl ads. This year, with everyone hot about the election, it is not surprising that those that rose to the top have a political message. People are talking about Airbnb, Budweiser, 84 Lumber and Audi.

However, as consumers start to dig in a little deeper, there are a few ads who are missing out on the truth behind a few of the spots.  The two ads that might not be as expected, or as we would say in 2017, they might have alternative facts are:

  • 84 Lumber
  • Audi

I have seen people tweeting, “That’s it. I am now going to buy more lumber” which is foolish or “I am a loyal fan of Budweiser, I’m never buying a Bud again” which is just as foolish. The reality of aligning yourself to a political message is it is the slowest way to gain customers and the fastest way to lose customers. A bunch of strategists of the world are saying “if you are purpose driven, you have to stay purpose driven”.  That’s OK, but what does that have to do with politics?

84 Lumber

On Monday morning, everyone on my Facebook has been talking about the “84 Lumber” spot. Ad Age and AdWeek have it on their top spot. OK, people, a lumber company who I never ever heard of just spent $10 Million on a 2 minute ad to send you to their website to see a 5 minute version.  Wait, what’s the brand name again, 84 Lumber. Ok, I forgot since I typed it 2 minutes ago.

So I  watched the 5 minute video and I was confused.



Is this a pro-immigration ad, or an anti-immigration ad?  What does the door opening mean? Does it mean that America is an open door filled with opportunity to realize the american dream? It might.  Or does it mean the wall will have a door that is a legal way to get into America? It might. Most of the left believed it means opportunity and they love the ad. The right also believed it was pro immigration, so they hate the ad. Apparently, the 84 Lumber CEO is a staunch Trump supporter and came out on Monday and said:

“We need to keep America safe. America needs to be safe so you and I can have the liberty to talk. The wall, I think it represents, to me, security. I like security.”

So, 84 Lumber who is a B2B brand focused on a very niche audience should never be in the Super Bowl have now run the risk of pissing off the left and right. Why did 84 Lumber spend $10-15 Million?  They say ‘awareness’.  Well, you have some short-term awareness, as both sides will now hate you. But who do you need awareness from? You are a B2B lumber brand. Anyway, personal marketing bias is that I hate awareness as a goal. But even worse, if you poke your nose into an issue, you better be able to stand up to the issue. 84 Lumber cannot even express what they want now. Imagine a year from now, they bid on the construction of the wall. They likely will. So how do you now feel about this ad?



I can’t blame those who feel betrayed by 84 Lumber, because that’s now I feel about Audi. I’m very pro-equality, and with an 18-year old daughter, I want her to achieve as much as she can in life. I rated this spot as my favorite Super Bowl ad.  Here’s the spot.



And here’s the script:

  • What do I tell my daughter?
  • Do I tell her that her grandpa’s worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom?
  • Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets? Or maybe, I’ll be able to tell her something different.
  • Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work.
  • Progress is for everyone

I still love the spot, but I am not so sure Audi has earned the right to say this. There are no women who sit on Audi’s Management Board and there are only two women who sit on its 14 person American executive team. In the press release for the Super Bowl ad, the car company said it was publicly committed to supporting women’s pay equality and pointed out that half of the candidates for its graduate internship program must be female. I feel fooled by their message. Actions speak louder than words. Audi made me a completely hollow promise. Isn’t this the same Volkswagen company that told us about fuel emissions last year? Let’s hope this backlash can work to make Audi do more for women inside their own organization before they start challenging everyone else to do so.  So how do you now feel about this ad?

Do the #alternativefacts make you feel different about these TV ads?


I believe brands should never pick political sides. You must realize that choosing political sides after a hotly  contested election is the fastest way to lose sales and the slowest way to gain sales. Politics is ugly. Brands should stay away.

There is a difference between a cause and a political belief.

It is great to be such a purpose driven brand that you stand up for your beliefs. But, why do you feel compelled in 2017, to extrapolate your purpose into the partisan political arena? The closer you get to one side of the political aisle, the uglier it can get. When it comes to politics, people cannot see straight. There beliefs are so deep, you will not change any minds. Instead, you should expect severe blowback, which could haunt your brand for years. I still think of Chick Fil A as the brand against marriage equality. Did you know that Chick Fil A quickly backpedaling on that stance? Wait, you think a brand should stand up for itself? Once Chick Fil A took some heat, they did a 180 turn and started donating to LGBT causes just to avoid a full on boycott. Yet, in my mind, their initial statements will stick forever.Last year, Starbucks had baristas writing #racetogether on coffee cups. Seemed innocent enough, but when their customers complained, Starbucks quickly backed away. If you like that brands stick their nose out, then you must hate when they pull back at the first sign of trouble.

If you are really purpose driven, then why does it have to show up in your advertising? Why not be authentic about your purpose and line up with a cause you believe in. How about mobilizing all your employees to go clean a river or give back by teaching kids how to read, or go work at a food bank. To keep it is authentic and pure, how about you do it quietly and believe you do not even need to garner any PR. Let your actions speak louder than your words.

As a guide, there has to be truth to your advertising. If you lie, you will get caught. So next time you have an ad you love, ask them “can we really stand behind this message?”.  Looks like 84 Lumber and Audi cannot.

Here’s our workshop to building a beloved brand.


Beloved Brands: We make brands stronger and brand leaders smarter.

We will unleash the full potential of your brand. We will lead a 360-degree assessment of your business, help you define your Brand Positioning, create a Big Idea that will transform your brand’s soul into a winning brand reputation and help you build a strategic Brand Plan everyone who works on the brand can follow.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on strategic thinking, brand analytics, brand planning, brand positioning, creative briefs and marketing execution.

To contact me, call me at 416 885 3911 or email me at graham@beloved-brands.com


Share this story with other MarketersShare on LinkedIn
Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Email this to someone
Print this page