84 Lumber's 2017 Super Bowl ad takes on immigration

Dive Brief:

  • Whether it intended to, building materials dealer 84 Lumber struck a chord of controversy with its two-part Super Bowl LI commercial featuring a mother and daughter making a treacherous journey from (presumably) Mexico to the U.S., according to MarketWatch.

  • Fox Sports reportedly rejected an initial version of the ad, which featured a wall dividing Mexico and the U.S. In a partial spot airing before halftime, the mother and daughter are shown traveling mostly on foot through the desert. Viewers were directed to the company’s website for the full version, which showed the two encountering a wall with a large, wooden door through which they could pass. The spot ends with the text, "The will to succeed is always welcome here."

  • In a call with Construction Dive, 84 Lumber Marketing Director Amy Smiley said the ad was meant to help the company kick off its 2017 recruiting effort and grow brand awareness nationally and that immigration wasn’t meant to be the focus. The ad references, which connects visitors with the full-length ad as well as recruiting information.

Dive Insight:

While many companies were showing their Super Bowl Sunday spots on the internet in the days leading up to the game, building materials retailer 84 Lumber was holding onto its big reveal of the full ad. That suspense may have worked, with the company’s website crashing Sunday evening due to a traffic overload.

The full commercial’s content — nearly six minutes in all — hit on a critical topic for the construction industry today, as contractors struggle to find qualified skilled labor and the new presidential administration threatens to make immigration processes more stringent. Meanwhile, 84 Lumber said in a statement that it plans to open 20 new stores and "hire hundreds of new employees at all levels" this year.

Yet the company said politics weren’t behind its decision to run the ad. "We weren’t trying to focus on immigration," Smiley said. "This is a story about hardworking people and what we stand for as a country. This has become a very hot topic, and when we picked this it was not the hot topic." She said 84 Lumber and Pittsburgh-based agency Brunner have been working on the spot for several months.

"This is a conversation that is taking place in homes across America, and 84 Lumber was willing to take part in that conversation," Brunner Chief Content Officer Rob Shapiro told Construction Dive. "It’s very relevant, it’s very timely."

Reactions to the ad have been mixed. Some said the ending, wherein the mother and daughter find the door, hearkens to President Donald Trump’s calls to a put a 'big beautiful door" in his proposed Mexico border wall — his metaphor for continued legal immigration opportunities. Others saw the company as taking a stand for open borders, especially given that the construction industry relies so heavily on immigrant labor. Many more were left wondering how deep to push in parsing the literal from the symbolic in what has been called a highly sanitized depiction of the challenges undocumented workers endure.

In a statement Sunday, 84 Lumber’s president and owner, Maggie Hardy Magerko, commented on the ad’s underlying political sentiment. "Even President Trump has said there should be a 'big beautiful door in the wall so that people can come into this country legally.' It’s not about the wall. It’s about the door in the wall. If people are willing to work hard and make this country better, that door should be open to them," she said.

84 Lumber wasn’t the only company to take a quasi-political tack — intentional or not. Home-sharing services platform Airbnb stood in for a host of tech companies that have been vocal in their opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration policies with its ad featuring images of a group of people representing diverse backgrounds with the overlaid text: "We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept." Budweiser, meanwhile, used its ad to show the challenges faced by founder Adolphus Busch on his arrival to the U.S. as an immigrant in the mid-19th century.

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Filed Under: Residential Building Corporate News
Top image credit: Brunner