Make us your home page
Instagram

Super Bowl ads go political in a big way (w/video)

NEW YORK — Messages about America, inclusiveness — and, yes, even "four years of awful hair" — kept bubbling up in Super Bowl 51 ads from Airbnb, the NFL and a line of personal care products. But there was still plenty of escapism and light humor for those who weren't into the politics.

As the New England Patriots edged out the Atlantic Falcons on the field in Houston, Airbnb touted inclusiveness with an ad showing faces of different ethnicities and the copy: "We all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept."

Coca-Cola aired a previously run ad during the pregame show in which people sing "America the Beautiful" in different languages. And Budweiser ran a 60-second spot chronicling co-founder Adolphus Busch's migration from Germany to St. Louis in 1857, prompting some critics to start a boycott campaign on Twitter.

Even a hair care brand dipped into politics: The "It's a 10" hair brand indirectly referenced President Donald Trump's famously unruly do in its Super Bowl spot.

It's tough to be a Super Bowl advertiser, period. But this year, a divisive political climate has roiled the nation since Trump took office in January, making it even tougher for advertisers.

RELATED: The 12 Super Bowl commercials that should have gotten your attention Sunday

Advertisers who paid $5 million for 30 seconds had to walk the line with ads that appealed to everyone and didn't offend. Some were more successful than others.

"Anxiety and politics just loom over this game, so anybody who gives us the blessed relief of entertaining with a real Super Bowl commercial wins," said Mark DiMassimo, CEO of the ad agency DiMassimo Goldstein.

Several ads aimed for just that. Tide, for instance, offered a humorous ad showing announcer Terry Bradshaw trying frantically to remedy a stain while his antics go "viral" online, with the help of New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski and actor Jeffrey Tambor.

WALKING THE POLITICAL LINE

"Brands used to worry about whether their ad could be interpreted as right or wrong," said Kelly O'Keefe, a marketing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. "Now they have to worry about whether it will be interpreted as right or left."

Plenty of ads walked that line.

An NFL spot conveyed what all advertisers hope the Super Bowl becomes: a place where Americans can come together. "Inside these lines, we may have our differences, but recognize there's more that unites us," Forest Whitaker intoned in a voiceover as workers prepped a football field and gridiron scenes played.

"The Super Bowl is shaping up as a counterpoint to the divisiveness in the United States," said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University.

Airbnb's ad was one of the more overtly political, showing a variety of different faces with the tagline "We accept."

Some thought the ad was a hit. "Kudos to them for making a strong statement," said O'Keefe. But others, such as Villanova University marketing professor Charles Taylor, thought it didn't have a clear enough link to the brand and risked coming off as a "purely political statement."

Budweiser drew some criticism for the immigration theme of its ad, including calls on Twitter to boycott the brewer. That fostered debate — and banter — online, particularly over one hashtag that misspelled the company's name, #boycottbudwiser.

Other advertisers took the safest route possible by re-airing ads they've used before — an unusual, though not unprecedented, move. Coca-Cola, Google and Fiji water all aired rerun ads.

During the pre-game show, Coca-Cola ran "It's Beautiful," an ad featuring people around the country drinking the fizzy beverage and singing "America the Beautiful" in different languages.

• SURPRISES

A debut Super Bowl spot by the "It's a 10" hair care brand introduced its line of men's products by joking about Donald Trump's hair.

"America, we're in for four years of awful hair, so it's up to you to do your part by making up for it with great hair," went a voiceover state as black-and-white photos of people with a wide array of hairstyles flashed by. "Do your part. ... Let's make sure these next four years are 'It's a 10.'"

Snickers got press by airing a live ad In the third quarter. On a Wild West set, actor Adam Driver seemed not to know the ad was live — and then the set fell apart (on purpose). "You ruin live Super Bowl commercials when you're hungry," the ad's tagline read.

"It went by so fast, I almost missed it," DiMassimo said. "Not sure it was worth the trouble of doing it live."

• LIGHT HUMOR PLUS CELEBS

Ads with light humor and stuffed with celebrities were popular. Honda's ad made a splash by animating the yearbook photos of nine celebrities ranging from Tina Fey to Viola Davis. They make fun of their photos — Jimmy Kimmel is dressed in a blue tux and holding a clarinet, for example — and talk about "The Power of Dreams," Honda's ad slogan.

"It was a really good message and it was entertaining," said Mirta Desir, a New Orleans native who works in education and was watching the game on Long Island.

The Tide ad with Terry Bradshaw was a hit with some viewers because of the way it tricked viewers into thinking it was part of the broadcast. "It made you think twice," said Pablo Rochat, watching in Atlanta. "There was funny dialogue and good storytelling."

T-Mobile's spots — which featured Justin Bieber and Rob Gronkowski dancing , Kristen Schaal in a "50 Shades of Grey" parody and Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg mixing talk about T-Mobile's unlimited data plan with innuendo about Snoop's marijuana habit, won raves from some — as did an ad from antioxidant drink maker Bai featuring Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken.

A scene from Budweiser's spot for Super Bowl 51, between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. The scene depicts when Anheuser-Busch co-founder Adolphus Busch, right, after traveling by boat from Germany, met fellow immigrant Eberhard Anheuser. [Budweiser via AP]

A scene from Budweiser's spot for Super Bowl 51, between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. The scene depicts when Anheuser-Busch co-founder Adolphus Busch, right, after traveling by boat from Germany, met fellow immigrant Eberhard Anheuser. [Budweiser via AP]

Super Bowl ads go political in a big way (w/video) 02/06/17 [Last modified: Monday, February 6, 2017 7:36am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.