Super Bowl ads go political in a big way

NEW YORK (AP) — Messages about America, inclusiveness — and, yes, even “four years of awful hair” — kept bubbling up in Super Bowl 51 ads from Airbnb, the NFL and a line of personal care products. But there was still plenty of escapism and light humor for those who weren’t into the politics.

As the New England Patriots edged out the Atlantic Falcons on the field in Houston, Airbnb touted inclusiveness with an ad showing faces of different ethnicities and the copy: “We all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”

Coca-Cola aired a previously run ad during the pregame show in which people sing “America the Beautiful” in different languages. And Budweiser ran a 60-second spot chronicling co-founder Adolphus Busch’s migration from Germany to St. Louis in 1857, prompting some critics to start a boycott campaign on Twitter.

Even a hair care brand dipped into politics:  The “It’s a 10” hair brand indirectly referenced President Donald Trump’s famously unruly do in its Super Bowl spot.

It’s tough to be a Super Bowl advertiser, period. But this year, a divisive political climate has roiled the nation since Trump took office in January, making it even tougher for advertisers.

Advertisers who paid $5 million for 30 seconds had to walk the line with ads that appealed to everyone and didn’t offend. Some were more successful than others.

Several ads aimed for just that. Tide, for instance, offered a humorous ad showing announcer Terry Bradshaw trying frantically to remedy a stain while his antics go “viral” online, with the help of New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski and actor Jeffrey Tambor.

An NFL spot conveyed what all advertisers hope the Super Bowl becomes: a place where Americans can come together. “Inside these lines, we may have our differences, but recognize there’s more that unites us,” Forest Whitaker intoned in a voiceover as workers prepped a football field and gridiron scenes played.

Airbnb’s ad was one of the more overtly political, showing a variety of different faces with the tagline “We accept.”

Budweiser drew some criticism for the immigration theme of its ad, including calls on Twitter to boycott the brewer. That fostered debate — and banter — online, particularly over one hashtag that misspelled the company’s name, #boycottbudwiser.

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