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 8:31 PM
Updated: Feb 5, 2018 8:31 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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 954230

Reported Deaths: 15474
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1298902003
Lake638781106
Allen54326765
Hamilton44326448
St. Joseph42368592
Elkhart33998491
Vanderburgh30740451
Tippecanoe27012251
Johnson23862420
Hendricks22576343
Porter21943348
Clark17657231
Madison17628387
Vigo16465285
Monroe14637193
LaPorte14493241
Delaware14291225
Howard14058274
Kosciusko11562137
Hancock11022168
Warrick10793179
Bartholomew10730171
Floyd10584209
Wayne10169230
Grant9271206
Morgan9000160
Boone8507112
Dubois7823124
Dearborn776391
Henry7749134
Noble7510101
Marshall7452129
Cass7244118
Lawrence7080154
Shelby6701111
Jackson666386
Gibson6233107
Harrison613287
Huntington608397
Montgomery5903106
DeKalb587591
Knox5589105
Miami554889
Putnam547668
Clinton540566
Whitley534054
Steuben506570
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Jasper487763
Jefferson478992
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Daviess4267109
Scott413065
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White396158
Wells393285
Decatur391297
Fayette383380
Posey364341
Jennings358857
Washington336847
LaGrange327375
Spencer323037
Randolph320290
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Sullivan311349
Owen289764
Starke287565
Fulton282356
Orange279259
Jay260038
Perry256353
Carroll247129
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Vermillion237751
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Pulaski170351
Crawford148519
Newton147046
Benton144716
Brown136646
Martin130618
Switzerland127810
Warren116116
Union99511
Ohio80911
Unassigned0494

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1393696

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1544531574
Cuyahoga1364632341
Hamilton991581326
Montgomery682681161
Summit571661051
Lucas51927869
Butler48223663
Stark42502983
Lorain32263539
Warren30544338
Mahoning27651643
Clermont26123297
Lake24920422
Delaware22656147
Licking20886246
Fairfield20833223
Greene20708275
Trumbull20465516
Medina20236290
Clark18277332
Richland16793236
Portage16501231
Wood16002209
Allen14459261
Miami14091261
Muskingum13019155
Wayne12306244
Columbiana12094242
Tuscarawas11297271
Marion10960150
Pickaway10675129
Scioto10618127
Erie9905171
Ross9685177
Lawrence9005125
Hancock8667143
Ashtabula8533187
Belmont8301188
Geauga8294156
Jefferson7785175
Huron7598131
Union745351
Washington7451126
Athens712965
Sandusky7003135
Darke6906137
Knox6876122
Seneca6551137
Ashland6095115
Auglaize598788
Shelby5867104
Brown579072
Mercer566790
Crawford5603117
Defiance5587101
Madison552571
Highland551782
Fulton544583
Clinton537681
Logan521987
Preble5131111
Putnam4915107
Guernsey489464
Williams471582
Perry466254
Champaign456664
Ottawa444684
Jackson438763
Pike402645
Morrow400551
Coshocton398069
Fayette385253
Adams373675
Hardin369470
Gallia357858
Henry332969
Holmes3328111
Van Wert323271
Hocking312570
Wyandot286858
Carroll268252
Paulding248843
Meigs225542
Monroe193449
Noble174942
Morgan171229
Harrison161941
Vinton143119
Unassigned05
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