84 Lumber skirts conservative backlash with immigration-themed Super Bowl ad

Social media users support the brand's employment ad about a Mexican family's journey to America.

Days before the Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch and Audi are facing consumer backlash online for ads that address immigration and equal pay, but first-time Big Game advertiser 84 Lumber remains relatively unscathed since releasing its commercial about a Mexican mother looking for work in America.

In January, Campaign US broke the news that Fox rejected the brand’s game day ad, which initially included a shot of a border wall, because it was "too political." The 90-second commercial scheduled for broadcast was released online as the first part of the story on Thursday. Absent any wall imagery, the ad features a Mexican mother and daughter on their journey to the United States and has received mostly positive reviews on social media.

One woman tweeted, "@84LumberNews thank you for your emotional and timely commercial. I'm in tears." A Facebook user posted, "Strategic creative, emotional and visually beautiful. It speaks to your core truths and your identity. Well done to all involved. Looking forward to part 2."

While the majority of negative comments reside on the brand’s YouTube page, at press time, twice as many people gave the film a thumbs up than thumbs down. While YouTuber Sergio Sarmiento said he was "drawn in by the quality and emotion of this short film," another user wrote that he was upset that 84 Lumber used Spanish in a commercial during the quintessential American event: "Stop celebrating illegal aliens! Stop having ads in Spanish. For your information, I speak Spanish, and yes, there's a place for Spanish, it's called Telemundo." 

The ad, created by Pittsburgh agency Brunner, begins with a mother looking longingly at photographs of what appear to be friends and family members before she makes the journey north with her daughter. Along the way, they encounter rain, a coyote (84 Lumber said it isn’t an allegory to the human-smuggling coyotajes) and a lot of litter, which the daughter collects. The spot ends with the girl sewing red, white and blue scraps together into what can be assumed will be the American flag. 

"It seems like everything has become a political conversation, whether we want it to be or not," said Amy Smiley, director of marketing at 84 Lumber, in an email. "And ignoring the conversation that’s taking place in the media and at every kitchen table in America didn’t seem right."

 Instead, the marketer is tackling the subject of U.S.-Mexican relations head-on, using its Super Bowl ad as a recruiting tool. "We can’t find enough good people, whether they were born here or immigrated here, to fill those positions," Smiley said, which is why the building supplies company will direct football fans to its website, Journey 84, to watch the full two-minute spot and apply for jobs. 

"You’ll be able to see the full story as it was intended online," said Smiley. "We don’t feel that advocating for hard-working people who want to build a life for themselves and their families should ever be a political issue."

One prominent Twitter user who has yet to weigh in on the ad is President Donald Trump, who has called out businesses in 140-character messages for not putting Americans first in the workforce. But Smiley said she welcomes Trump’s commentary. 

"The goal is make sure people know who 84 Lumber is and what we stand for," she said. "If the President wants to shine a light on us and the housing industry, that’s great. We’d love his help."