Why this year's Super Bowl ads pulled punches on Trump

Something was missing from this year's slate of Super Bowl ads.Unlike last year, when Super Bowl advertisers p...

Posted: Feb 5, 2018 7:31 PM
Updated: Feb 5, 2018 7:31 PM

Something was missing from this year's slate of Super Bowl ads.

Unlike last year, when Super Bowl advertisers put politics and Trump-related content on display, this year's line-up was far more subtle.

In 2017, Trump supporters called for a boycott of several brands after the big game.

Last year's Super Bowl aired shortly after Donald Trump's inauguration as president. It featured a hair commercial that said "America, we're in for at least four years of awful hair," an 84 Lumber ad with immigrants and a border wall, and a Budweiser ad that told the story of its immigrant founder.

Kia used Melissa McCarthy, who had just started her parody of then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Even though she wasn't in character for the spot and the ad wasn't political, it still caused a backlash among Trump supporters.

The tone in 2018 was far more reserved.

This year, viewers saw a T-Mobile ad with a message about equality and a Ram Trucks commercial that used a sermon by Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote the value of service.

None of the ads made direct references to President Trump, and that may have been strategic.

"Given the fact that Trump dominates the news cycle, there was strong aversion to those types of ads," said Jason Damata, an analyst at brand consultant Fabric Media. "Trump was the third rail in that no one went there. They all went after the things that bring us together. They took advantage of the moment."

Related: Ram Trucks used an MLK sermon in a Super Bowl ad. Then this happened

Damata said this year, most brands chose to "speak to all audiences and not just one segment of the population."

He said they embraced messages of diversity and unity as a way to appeal to everyone.

"Advertisers know that culturally there's some polarization in the country," he said. "But you really saw the all-American fabric showing up. Last year the political ads did fine. It's not like they didn't perform, but I think they made the calculation that people are sick of it. They weren't trying to fire people up."

Damata noted that comedy was again a popular trend and that brands played it "safe and sweet with things we can all agree on." He cited data on the top 10 ads in terms of engagement and noted that five of them had themes of togetherness or featured diverse casts.

Last year's most controversial ad was 84 Lumber's spot, which showed a Hispanic mother and daughter setting out on a journey from their home toward America. It was considered so politically charged that Fox, which broadcast last year's game, deemed part of it too controversial to air on TV. It declined to show the end, in which the migrants come upon a large border wall with a door built into it.

The ad led some Trump supporters to vow not to shop at the building supply company. But it's worth noting that 84 Lumber's owner, Maggie Hardy Magerko, said she voted for Trump. In fact, having a huge door in the wall is something Trump himself mentioned repeatedly in campaign speeches.

Damata said he's unsure whether that ad would've resonated in quite the same way this year.

"The threshold for shock is now so high," he said. That's why most brands "calculated that they're better off going for hope and aspiration -- the softer side of things."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 556381

Reported Deaths: 7098
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1158471682
Ramsey47939856
Dakota42586422
Anoka38655415
Washington24993274
Stearns21052219
St. Louis16821298
Scott16013117
Wright14818127
Olmsted1276297
Sherburne1064880
Carver984945
Clay783490
Rice7649101
Blue Earth698640
Kandiyohi628181
Crow Wing618186
Chisago550650
Otter Tail543973
Benton532297
Mower451132
Goodhue444172
Douglas442870
Winona438649
Nobles400648
Morrison396059
McLeod395255
Isanti378259
Itasca373653
Beltrami372957
Polk366067
Steele364014
Becker356048
Lyon348648
Carlton329452
Freeborn328129
Pine312321
Nicollet307542
Brown294739
Mille Lacs282150
Le Sueur270822
Todd268830
Cass250426
Meeker237437
Waseca231421
Martin213429
Wabasha19953
Roseau197818
Renville172543
Hubbard172341
Dodge17193
Redwood166335
Houston162614
Cottonwood157021
Fillmore15179
Pennington151019
Chippewa146537
Wadena144621
Faribault144019
Sibley136410
Kanabec131721
Aitkin128736
Watonwan12569
Rock123019
Jackson117410
Yellow Medicine110819
Pipestone109926
Pope10306
Murray10269
Swift100018
Marshall85617
Stevens82210
Lake78419
Clearwater77814
Koochiching77313
Wilkin77012
Lac qui Parle73622
Big Stone5644
Lincoln5592
Grant5498
Norman5229
Mahnomen5088
Unassigned50378
Kittson46822
Red Lake3877
Traverse3605
Lake of the Woods3073
Cook1460

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 358085

Reported Deaths: 5821
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk56023604
Linn20310330
Scott19111234
Black Hawk15560306
Woodbury14906221
Johnson1405881
Dubuque13162202
Dallas1090196
Pottawattamie10763162
Story1031547
Warren555686
Clinton537790
Cerro Gordo522986
Webster508391
Sioux506673
Marshall477274
Muscatine460796
Des Moines441965
Wapello4254120
Buena Vista421940
Jasper407670
Plymouth397479
Lee368555
Marion354575
Jones293155
Henry286337
Bremer279360
Carroll279351
Crawford261840
Boone258833
Benton250355
Washington249550
Dickinson242343
Mahaska224850
Jackson218242
Kossuth213063
Clay211225
Tama206671
Delaware203039
Winneshiek194433
Page190421
Buchanan188831
Cedar184423
Fayette183041
Wright180435
Hardin179942
Hamilton178149
Harrison176473
Clayton167155
Butler162534
Mills158720
Cherokee157138
Floyd155442
Lyon154841
Madison154119
Poweshiek152733
Allamakee149151
Iowa145524
Hancock143734
Winnebago136131
Grundy135332
Cass134654
Calhoun133211
Jefferson131035
Emmet128740
Shelby128637
Sac127319
Louisa127249
Appanoose126647
Mitchell125341
Union124132
Chickasaw122615
Humboldt118326
Guthrie117929
Franklin112821
Palo Alto111022
Howard102822
Montgomery100637
Unassigned10050
Clarke98323
Keokuk94730
Monroe94128
Ida89733
Adair84532
Pocahontas83721
Monona81230
Davis79924
Greene76710
Osceola75516
Lucas74923
Worth7098
Taylor65312
Fremont6139
Decatur5899
Van Buren55518
Ringgold53623
Wayne52123
Audubon4939
Adams3284
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