84 Lumber’s first Super Bowl commercial. The company’s first national campaign. The largest media spend in their history. The only 90-second commercial during the game. When 84 Lumber decided to create a Super Bowl commercial in 2017, it was one of the most momentous occasions in the company’s 61-year history. It represented a culmination of the past and a symbol for the future. But if you weren’t an 84 Lumber customer or employee, why would you care? Especially when there were 52 other brands, and 65 other commercials, each with their own compelling stories, and much larger pre-Super Bowl marketing budgets all trying to grab your attention at the same time.
This had to be more than the biggest thing 84 Lumber had ever done. This had to rival the biggest thing anyone’s ever done. We had to make the entire world care about 84 Lumber as much as their own associates.
From the moment we saw the storyboards, we knew this was bigger than just a Super Bowl spot. That’s why we decided to turn a single commercial into a month-long discussion about politics, the housing industry, and equal opportunity hiring, a discussion led by 84 Lumber.
How did we do it?
- Don’t marry yourself to a plan. In late December 2016, we put together a comprehensive plan, including timing, targets, and story angles. Then FOX rejected the commercial three weeks before the Super Bowl. We didn’t have the luxury of going back to the drawing board so we literally drew up a new approach on a whiteboard in a single morning. We kept things fluid and flexible from that point forward, allowing us to pivot at the drop of a dime.
- Get approvals on messages, not words. There was a single client-approved key messages document that we kept updated as new questions and topics arose. This document provided consistency in everything from media interviews to Tweets to employee memos. This allowed us to move quickly without bogging the client down in emails.
- Understand media drivers. In this era of diminished newsrooms and content algorithms, news functions like a waterfall. A story will run in The New York Times or Wall Street Journal, but then it trickles down (e.g., “as first reported in the New York Times…”) through other newspapers, blog posts, local news outlets, trade publications, all of which act as syndicates for the content. We spent a ton of time working with reporters and editors at these types of outlets versus casting a wide net.
For an entire month, we made a lumber company from southwestern Pennsylvania the topic of conversation. For a month, the media coverage centered on who 84 Lumber was, why they were creating a Super Bowl commercial, why they were wading into such a controversial topic, and what they wanted to achieve. When you look back at the biggest stories of Super Bowl LI, there’s the Patriots’ comeback…and then there’s 84 Lumber.
Interested in learning more about what went on behind the scenes of the 84 Lumber Super Bowl commercial? Join Steve Radick and Meredith Klein from BRUNNER on Sunday, November 5th at the Annual IABC Heritage Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. From idea brainstorming to the FOX ban to the partisan post-Super Bowl online conversation, Steve and Meredith will share how they developed and executed 84 Lumber’s Super Bowl PR campaign.