How the Trump era is shaping this year’s Super Bowl ads

With Americans currently divided by the many controversies of their President Donald Trump, this year’s Super Bowl advertising is overtly political.

Melissa McCarthy in Kia Super Bowl ad
Melissa McCarthy poorly tries to save the environment in Kia’s ad. Is it a parallel to Trump?

A lot has been made of the anti-Trump comments Lady Gaga might utter during her halftime performance at Super Bowl 2017 this Sunday (4 February), but marketers are just as primed to touch on the political tensions that currently engulf the US.

While the world’s most coveted ad spot is sure to be dominated by the usual celebrity cameos, here are some of this year’s more politically charged ads.

Budweiser: Born the Hard Way

The beer giant’s pro-immigration ad opens with the line ‘You don’t look like you’re from around here’ at a time where the US has imposed a controversial ban on millions of Muslims crossing its borders.

In fact, the parallels to 2017 are unavoidable. The ad depicts a young German immigrant making the long voyage to America in the 1850s, only to be greeted by a group of angry locals who yell ‘You don’t belong here!’.

The twist? The young German actually turns out to be Adolphus Busch, the co-founder of what would become the world-renowned US brewer (and Budweiser owner) Anheuser-Busch.

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Budweiser VP Ricardo Marques has been quick to shut down the ad’s resemblance to immigration tensions in a Trump America, calling it a “coincidence”. But with millions of Americans angry at their president’s rejection of refugees escaping war zones, the cinematic ad will speak on a personal level to many.

It’s also a bold break from Budweiser’s typically sickly and sentimental Super Bowl ads, with a previous spot featuring a truck load of puppies.

Audi: #DriveProgress

Audi is another major brand making a political stand for this year’s Super Bowl. Its #DriveProgress ad opens with a voiceover that asks: “What shall I tell my daughter? That her grandpa is worth more than her grandma?” and depicts a young girl winning a go-kart race against several young boys.

It asks strong questions about why men and women do not enjoy equal pay, ending on the fictional father’s hopeful line of “Or maybe I’ll be able to tell her something different” as Audi highlights its commitment to ending the gender pay gap.

The ad has already angered some Trump supporters, who have described Audi as pushing out ‘feminist propaganda’. But at a time when hundreds of thousands of women have protested against Trump due to their fears of losing many basic rights, such as the right to an abortion, the ad feels poignant.

It is also consistent with the car marque’s brand values, with its graduate internship program stating 50% of candidates must be female. And aside from the cheesy final shot, which shows the young girl and her dad getting into an Audi like the car is some sort of social justice wagon, the ad’s message is every bit as powerful as Budweiser’s.

Kia: Hero’s Journey

Featuring Hollywood actress Melissa McCarthy – the star of excellent comedies such as Spy – Kia’s less serious Super Bowl ad shows her globetrotting in a bid to save the planet’s environment.

With loads of Home Alone-esque slapstick violence, McCarthy tries to save the ice caps only to fall through them. Her bid to ‘Save the trees’ is also unsuccessful as a man cuts down the tree she’s hugging with a chainsaw. And when asked to save the rhinos, one gorges her.

The ad ends with the line ‘It’s hard to be an eco warrior’ amid a political climate where Trump is expected to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump has also previously suggested global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese.

But don’t fear the challenges of ‘being an eco warrior’ in the age of Trump, as the car ad concludes: ‘At least it’s easy to drive like one; introducing the Kia Niro.’

Avocados from Mexico: #AvoSecrets

Avocados from Mexico’s clever Super Bowl ad shows a secret society – very much in the mold of the Illuminati – having an urgent meeting about the fact the secret of ‘how great avocados are’ has broken out.

The group riffs on the ‘fake’ moon landings, aliens at Area 51 and even subliminal advertising. When one of its cloaked members asks “Is subliminal advertising real?” a giant head flashes up on the screen yelling “Eat them!” Subsequently, the ad ends with all of the secret society members stuffing their faces with nachos submerged in guacamole.

While the ad’s connections with a Trump’ America aren’t as obvious as the other three, it does have similarities to the current political climate, with many Americans concerned at the makeup of their president’s cabinet.

The central role of Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was the executive chair of the controversial alt-right news site Breitbart, and even the role of Trump’s daughter Ivanka, have both come under heavy scrutiny. While many still believe Trump is being controlled by Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Suddenly, the idea of a shadowy group secretly pulling the strings doesn’t seem so silly.