Super Bowl’s Most Controversial Ad: The Westport Roots

On December 8, the script for a Super Bowl ad landed on John Noble’s desk.

The executive director for FIXER Partners — a 1981 Staples High School graduate — says, “It spoke to my core beliefs. That’s incredibly rare in advertising.”

He had just 7 weeks to help produce the spot. That would be a daunting challenge — let alone doing it over the holidays, knowing the audience would be yuuuuuge.

But Noble rose to the challenge. And the ad — for 84 Lumber — became one of the most talked-about in an already-crowded Super Bowl ad environment.

John Noble

John Noble

Fox deemed the ad — depicting a migrant mother and daughter’s long, treacherous journey to America (including a massive wall) too controversial to show.

So Noble and the company — a Pennsylvania-based supplier of building materials —  aired an edited 1:30 version. At the end, viewers were invited to “See the conclusion” at 84 Lumber’s website.

At the end of that 5:44 video, the words “The will to succeed is always welcome here” spoke to both the American spirit, and 84 Lumber’s desire to attract the best employees, wherever they are.

It’s already been viewed nearly 10 million times.

The moment the spot was shown Sunday night, Noble’s Facebook page blew up. Included were “some pretty negative right wing responses,” he tells “06880.”

Patiently, he posted that the spot was not about wide open borders, which “nobody wants.” Instead it’s about “good, honest, hard-working people.”

The big door at the end of the ad is “a visual metaphor for opening our country to those people. We want and need good moral people of all races, creeds and colors in this great country of ours.”

To Noble’s surprise, he engaged in “fairly positive and open dialogue” with some of the naysayers. “It felt good,” he adds.

Noble — whose father was a noted advertising executive — has been producing big commercials for many years. But this was the initial one for the company he recently launched, FIXER.

“It was a heck of a first project,” he laughs.

Building the wall, on the dusty Mexican set.

Building the wall, on the dusty Mexican set.

The University of Maryland and School of Visual Arts graduate cites Bedford Junior High School teachers Ed Hall, Sal Cassano and Barbara Candee as early influences.

“I wasn’t a particularly good student,” he notes. “In their own respective ways, each of those people coached or taught me that I would develop on my own schedule, and my own time. They were right.”

Noble’s mother recently celebrated a half century in the home she raised him in. Whenever he’s back east, working in New York, he stays here.

“Early evenings at the beach with a cold beer, chowing down an Art’s deli combo or a slice of Jordan’s garlic and onion pizza — life gets no better!” he says.

John Noble appreciates Westport — and America.

And he’s glad that he helped bring 84 Lumber’s message that this is the land of opportunity to a larger audience than even he imagined, 2 months ago.

(Hat tips: Ted Gangi, Brian Pettee, Chris Strausser, Russell Sherman and Suzanne Sherman Propp)


14 responses to “Super Bowl’s Most Controversial Ad: The Westport Roots

  1. Fantastic

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Arline Gertzoff

    We need more like youBravo for standing up to the bigots

  3. Congratulations for this excellent, poignant ad. Not surprised Fox would block it.

  4. Thank you — I watched it & it spoke to my heart. I’m a Bedford Jr. High & Staples grad from way way back. I so hope our country won’t lose it’s humanity!

  5. Am also a Bedford and Staples grad, and I adored those teachers as well. The ad is really a film – and in addition to it’s beautiful message, the cinematography was STUNNING. Kudos!!!

  6. Beth Orlan Berkowitz

    So well done and well stated. Very classy way to portray what I think most of America wants. We all want hardworking people with good values for themselves and to instill in the younger generation. We want diversity, if we aren’t bigots, as long as they are trying to make a better life for themselves and their family and most of these people are happy to pay taxes, if the government will give them the ability to get here legally and work.

  7. It is a beautiful, moving piece – agree, it’s a short film – and so glad it is getting attention past the Super Bowl. Well done, John and FIXER….’proud knowing you have Westport roots.

  8. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    I’m a really old, Bedford Elementary, Bedford Junior High, Staples High school grad, so very grateful for all that Westport’s education and many very gracious and generous citizens did for all of us. But that is beside the point. This is a film that needs to be seen far and wide. Thank you John Noble for your heart and for the message you are sending. We, all Americans, need to remember that, unless we are Native Americans, at some point someone crossed a border so we could be here. We need to be grateful and remember their sacrifice.

  9. Philip M. Perlah

    I didn’t watch the Super Bowl (Giants eliminated in early round). Censorship by Fox is in keeping with Trump actions. Today he criticizes Nordstrom for dropping the Ivanka line (duh. poor sales). It’s going to be a tough 4 years (hope only 4).

  10. What a remarkable ad with a tremendously creative ending.

  11. Vicky Wallace

    John this is amazing. It gripped me from the start and all the way through. You and the crew that made this should be amazingly proud! I know I am. This is the America I know and love.

  12. What I don’t understand is why any advertiser would want to run a political ad in politically hyper-sensitive times. Doing this, regardless of which side one takes, will alienate a substantial number of customers. Why do that? Why would an advertiser willingly decide to irk a large chunk of his customer base? I don’t care about the politics of people I do business with. A business transaction is exactly that and no more. But I don’t particularly want the people I do business with to be shoving their politics in my face, even when I might agree with them.

    The best political sign I saw last October was in North Berwick, Maine, in front of a small business. It said, in simple block letters: “NO POLITICAL SIGNS. BAD FOR BUSINESS”

    I just don’t understand why 84 Lumber ran this ad.

  13. John F. Suggs

    Wow! Deeply, deeply moving. Thank you John Noble for using you G-d given gifts and your hard earned skills to create such a powerful film. You have made this Westporter – and so many others – very proud today. Thank you.

  14. Carolanne Curry

    Subtle but powerful