The power of story in 84 Lumber’s controversial Super Bowl ad

The art of an effective Super Bowl advertisement is difficult.

It costs $5 million every 30-seconds an ad is on air. No matter how large your budget is, your story needs to be concise.

Building supplies producer 84 Lumber hit a home-run in both story telling and marketing this year. Their advertisement documents the journey of a Mexican mother and her daughter through immigration.

It hits all the marks of a full and compelling story. And we can thank 84 Lumber’s tactful releases of both a partial and full commercial on both television and the web.

The partial advertisement aired live on Fox and introduced the story of the immigrant family. It begins the narration of a family traveling through their native land, pushing forward with hope for a brighter future elsewhere. It ends with a teaser for an extended version online that shows the conclusion of the mother and daughter’s journey across boarders.

84 Lumber does not make their brand evident until seconds after the concluding teaser flashes. The spotlight is entirely on the two travelers.

You can watch the original commercial here:

The story being cut to a minute and a half (a nearly $15 million dollar slot), left hanging for further review online, and not making clear who provided this kind of narrative on live television cause people to become hooked on this family’s struggles and compelled to learn more on their own.

The narrative of immigration, a controversial subject that nearly didn’t see the light of day because of Fox’s censorship, hits a deeply personal nerve and resonates with people of all backgrounds.

You can watch the full advertisement only available online here:

Budweiser tried to a similar move, airing a full ad documenting their founder’s immigration history. However, while it told a full story as well, the simplicity of 84 Lumber’s story paired with present day relevance and an extended arch online makes 84 Lumber more powerful.

You can watch Budweiser’s full advertisement here:

Keith Quesenberry, an advertising analyst, has a blog post about how a traditional story arch makes Super Bowl ads powerful.

84 Lumber manages to incite exposition through the intent to move across boarders, the traveling of the family with the audience’s knowledge border patrols are an issue introduces rising action, and the conclusion meets with a climax of the two holding hands in what is presumably the other side of the boarder.

The extended commercial introduces a wall along the border that threatens their safe travels. However, the moment of release comes with the resolution of making it safely over the walls and 84 Lumber suggesting progress comes through diversity. 84 Lumber seeks to build a stronger nation through the acceptance of stronger immigration policies.

Naturally, controversy follows. Conversations start on all ends of the political spectrum. And the brand is solidified in peoples minds as a conscientious organization that furthered their immigration conversation.

Budweiser goes through all these motions, however, it lacks immediacy and condenses it’s story in a shorter time frame that does not push people to dive any deeper than necessary.

84 Lumber took financial and narrative risks. It’s paying off socially and fiscally.