After weeks of anticipation, the internet finally got its hands on 84 Lumber's controversial Super Bowl ad on Sunday, and reactions were predictably brutal. But a technical glitch meant the audience had to wait a bit longer than expected.
The little-known company was lifted to national prominence in January when Campaign US first reported that Fox Sports had rejected its Super Bowl commercial for being politically divisive. Sources close to the process revealed that the ad centered on illegal immigration, possibly featuring a version of the wall President Donald Trump has said he will build between Mexico and the U.S.
Last week, the lumber company, based outside of Pittsburgh, released the first half of the ad, which had been revised to fit Fox's standards. At the time, the company announced the second half of the spot would become available on Journey84.com after the first part aired before halftime. The entire commercial was created by Pittsburgh creative agency Brunner.
Prior to the game itself, 84 Lumber was getting largely positive reactions to the spot. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube users praised the building supplies company for supporting the American dream and being inclusive of immigrants.
@84LumberNews thank you for your emotional and timely commercial. I'm in tears. ??— BadAss Ms Lannister (@youreonclaud9) February 3, 2017
What a difference 48 hours and live television makes. Immediately after the first-half of the ad aired, the company's site crashed, eliciting a torrent of mocking reactions.
84 Lumber Ad of mother and daughter's journey to becoming legal citizen caused their site to crash and will cause sales to boom! #superbowl— North_Of_Boston (@Charles_1944) February 6, 2017
Poor 84 Lumber. Spends $15MM for a controversial #SuperBowl :90 ad, directs people to microsite, and site goes down due to too much traffic— Adam Landau (@landau1120) February 6, 2017
@scottbraddock 84 Lumber is sooo dumb. 84 Lumber site went down after 84 Lumber commercial and now the planet will know 84 Lumber's name.— Joey Parr (@GrandOleParr) February 6, 2017
"We got more than 300,000 web requests in the first minute" and more than 6 million in the first hour, said George Potts, VP and MD of social media at Brunner, in an email. "The site never crashed, but it was throttled, and we’re only able to serve 150,000 requests per minute (about half as many as were coming in)." In all, it took about 10 minutes to resolve, and the brand used paid social to redirect people to the ad on YouTube in the interim.
Once viewers will able to find the spot, the angry tweets, Facebook posts, and YouTube comments came rolling in. Many critics accused 84 Lumber of endorsing illegal immigration.
@84LumberNews You just alienated those who give you business. Not exactly the smartest of moves. Who do you think buys your materials?— Cindy Keaton-Stover (@CinCin421) February 6, 2017
The brand responded with a few canned responses. Said one: "We don’t condone illegal immigration. The journey symbolizes the characteristics that we look for in our people at 84 Lumber." Said another: "We’re not going to exclude people based on origin. If that changes ur views of our products & services, that’s ur right."
Still, Potts said the response online was "straight down the middle, 50/50. Given the subject matter, we absolutely anticipated a Vesuvius-like response in social media."
His team of 15 social media analysts were glued to their computers all evening, with the aim to respond to everyone who tags 84 Lumber in the conversation. "We developed a sophisticated response rubric and over 20 pages of responses anticipating everything from claims we’re supporting illegal immigration to direct comments from the presidential administration," he said.
President Donald Trump has yet to weigh in—there’s still time—but one thing is clear. The company bought 90 seconds of Super Bowl ad time in an effort to recruit more laborers. Come Monday, it’ll be the most talked about job posting in America.
This story first appeared on campaignlive.com.