One of the Super Bowl's most provocative spots came from construction supplies company 84 Lumber, a 61-year-old firm little known outside its industry, with a strong message about immigration. The 90-second ad, featuring a Mexican woman and her daughter taking a journey, ostensibly to the country's border, aired just before the halftime show and directed viewers to a website to watch the unexpected conclusion.
But within one minute of the commercial's airing, the website, journey84.com, received more than 300,000 hits—enough to slow down the load-time and display a "The service is unavailable" message to visitors. Many hoping to see the entire spot voiced their frustration on social media.
"The site never crashed, but was throttled," said a spokesman for Brunner, 84 Lumber's Pittsburgh-based agency. He said 84 Lumber's site was only able to serve 150,000 requests per minute, and that the issue took 10 minutes to resolve. During that timeline, Brunner used paid social to redirect viewers to YouTube as the 84 Lumber site restored. After one hour, the site had received more than 6 million requests to load, according to Brunner.
Those who watched the journey continue saw the pair of travelers nearly reach their destination—but stop at an unexpected giant border wall. The wall's depiction was why Fox Broadcasting initially rejected the spot for being too controversial and political, and what prompted 84 Lumber to add a digital version. At the video's end, the mother spies a door and she and her daughter pass through, as text reads, "The Will to Succeed is Always Welcome Here."
The spot, a first Super Bowl commercial for the family-run, privately-owned company, was designed to be a recruiting tool to entice men ages 20 to 29 to develop their careers with the brand.
"It's not about the wall. It's about the door in the wall. If people are willing to work hard and make this country better, that door should be open to them," said Maggie Hardy Magerko, second-generation owner and president of 84 Lumber in a statement.
The company intends to continue with its recruitment campaign as it strives to staff 20 new stores opening this year.
"We had a responsibility to do more than create a commercial, but to create something meaningful that would get people talking about the housing industry in a positive way," Brunner's Chief Creative Officer Rob Schapiro said in a statement. "Ignoring the conversation that's taking place in the media and at every kitchen table in America just didn't seem right."
The effect was unsurprisingly polarizing as many took to Twitter to air their support or outrage.
"Never buy lumber from you again. Maybe you need to sell in Mexico. Check your stock on the market," tweeted Steve Poling.
Brunner and 84 Lumber anticipated the onslaught and had a response ready. "We do not condone illegal immigration. The mother and daughter symbolizes grit, dedication and sacrifice, characteristics that we look for in our people at 84 Lumber. President Trump has previously said there should be a 'big, beautiful door in the wall so that people can come into this country legally.' We couldn't agree more," the Eighty Four, Penn.-based company said via Twitter.
But not everyone was buying it.
"Please stop," John Cardillo tweeted to 84 Lumber. "You're embarrassing yourself and insulting our intelligence. Your ad was about illegals."
The effort drew plenty of praise, too. "Thank you for that powerful ad! I stand with you and will refer your products! I apologize on behalf of all the haters!" tweeted TJ Wells.
Gideon Emery tweeted, "This immigrant would like to say a big thank you to @Budweiser @CocaCola & @84LumberNews for celebrating that immigrants are also Americans," referring to Bud's ad about its immigrant founder and Coca-Cola's decision to re-air the "It's Beautiful" spot about diversity that first ran in 2014.