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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

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.

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)


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