The Super Bowl was historic, not only for the Patriots, but also for recruiting! That’s because we saw the first pure-play recruiting ad — and one that came with controversy.

In case you missed it, there was a 90-second Super Bowl recruiting ad featuring an employer named 84 Lumber.

Who is 84 Lumber ?

They are a family-owned building-materials retailer in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania (that’s right: there’s a town called “Eighty Four”!). There’s more on 84 Lumber the company here.

What’s the controversy?

Campaign Live first reported that Fox TV (who’s broadcasting the Super Bowl) rejected 84 Lumber’s initial ad because it featured “a wall blocking people looking for work in the United States.” The first ad included images of immigrants unable to cross the border due to the wall (a “flash point” for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election), according to CL.

“Parts of the ad were shot out west, part of it were in Mexico,” Michael Brunner (CEO of ad firm Brunnerworks) tells CBS Pittsburgh.

84 Lumber went back to the drawing board and created an ad acceptable to Fox, Brunner says.

Here’s the ad that went live:

What was the goal of the ad?

Ad man Brunner tells CBS that 84 Lumber has 3 goals in mind:

  1. Generate national awareness of 84 Lumber
  2. Create pride in the workforce
  3. Fill jobs within the company (specifically, they have 400 positions to fill)

The Super Bowl ad ended with a web link directing viewers to a site about working at 84 Lumber, which also featured the original ad, according to Brunner’s Chief Creative Officer Rob Schapiro.

What type of people is 84 Lumber trying to attract?

84 Lumber is expanding the company’s entry-level management training program from 600 to 1,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. 84 Lumber doesn’t care so much if candidates have a degree or not, Brunner VP of PR Steve Radick told Campaign Live.

They are looking to attract candidates with a ‘roll up your sleeves and get the job done’ attitude,” he tells Campaign Live.

How much did this Super Bowl recruiting ad cost?

The Wall Street Journal estimates that the ad cost $15 million for the air time alone (this would not count the cost for creating the ad through Brunner).

What did the 84 Lumber ad appear during the Super Bowl?

CBS Pittsburgh reports that the ad appeared somewhere late in the second quarter (right before half-time).

Is this the first Super Bowl ad focused on recruiting?

This 84 Lumber ad may in fact be the first Super Bowl ad focused purely on recruiting, though there have been major recruiting-oriented ads run on national TV such as the GE Digital. The GE Digital “What’s the Matter with Owen?” ad that ran during last year’s Academy Awards (geared to attract software developers).

GE Digital Applications rose 24% in the months after the ads aired (source: Jen Waldo, GE Digital Head of HR via WSJ).

Other career-related ads have appeared during the Super Bowl, including this silly 2006 CareerBuilder ad featuring monkeys:

Can you see the original (unedited) 84 Lumber ad?

Here is the orignal cut, over 5 minutes long.


by in Recruiting Strategies