Skip to main content

The Super Bowl's best ads got political, intentionally or not

The Super Bowl's best ads got political, intentionally or not

Share this story

President Trump’s policies had a completely expected effect on the Super Bowl last night. He managed to push the big game’s ads, and the way fans view them, into the realm of politics. Certainly not every company set out to make a statement, but it was almost impossible to watch some of the biggest ads of the night without viewing them as opposition against the new administration.

The game’s biggest and most controversial spot was likely Budweiser’s, which first appeared last week. Titled “Born the Hard Way,” the ad follows Anheuser-Busch co-founder Adolphus Busch on his journey from Germany down to St. Louis, Missouri, where he meets future partner Eberhard Anheuser over a beer.

A spokesman for Budweiser parent company AB InBev insists the ad has nothing to do with today’s political climate, and that it’s “a universal story that is very relevant today.” “There’s really no correlation with anything else that’s happening in the country,” brand VP Ricardo Marques told Adweek. Indeed, the ad itself was locked in October, well ahead of the election. But, thanks to the ad’s release after the president’s immigration ban and a weekend of protests, observers on the right called for a Budweiser boycott.

American values took on new political weight during last night’s game

The ways Trump’s policies have colored the optics around advertising became a major theme last night. Though many companies reportedly went to great pains to avoid politics, “universal” American values like the importance of family — which typically are the Super Bowl’s bread and better — took on new political weight. Google’s ad, which was originally released last October, scans as more inclusive and deliberately progressive in the current climate.

Coca-Cola’s pre-game ad, which features people singing “America the Beautiful” in multiple languages, originally aired in 2014. It was divisive even in the year it debuted, but in 2017, it feels a good deal more political than last year’s Avengers-flavored spot.

Audi’s ad is pretty clearly feminist in how it addresses sexism:

Even Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a series that has been in production for months, appears to shine an apocalyptic light on how GOP policies like the global gag rule and threats to defund Planned Parenthood might affect women in the long run:

All this being said, some companies did go out of their way to take jabs at the president. Airbnb, in a spot that aligns with its previous work critical of the new White House, appeared to respond to the recent travel ban. The company told The New York Times that it didn’t intend on advertising at the big game, but scrambled to cut something together Super Bowl in three days when it learned there was ad space left. (It’s worth noting that the ad essentially recuts an older ad released in November to tout the company’s anti-discrimination efforts.)

Hair-care company It’s a 10 trolled Donald Trump’s hair in its spot:

And construction company 84 Lumber’s pro-immigration ad, which depicts a mother and daughter facing a literal border wall, was deemed so controversial that it couldn’t air in its entirety during the game:

Not every company is prepared to go to battle with the president over where the country should head. However, the Super Bowl is on the short list of things considered as American as apple pie, and advertising around the event has generally attempted to reflect viewers’ presumed values. Over the past few years, companies like InBev and Google latched onto inclusivity and social progress as things Super Bowl viewers were more or less willing to consume. Trump has put himself at odds with that particular vision of America, making what would have seemed perfectly middle-of-the-road ads under President Obama (or President Hillary Clinton) more obviously antithetical to “Making America Great Again.” In the end, whether or not these companies intended to make any pointed critiques of Trump, they clearly indicated last night that they consider diversity, women’s rights, and immigrants’ rights as core American values.

Well, those things plus Christopher Walken reciting *NSYNC lyrics.

Update 2:40pm ET: The above article has been updated to clarify that Airbnb’s spot was a recut version of an earlier ad.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 25 Not just you

E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 25
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.