At five million per thirty seconds, this ad for the Washington Post, narrated by Tom Hanks, cost at least ten million dollars to make. It also angered more than a few WaPo staffers who called out billionaire owner Jeff Bezos for not giving better health benefits, 401K matching and parental leave.
If it's curious that I didn't mention the point of the ad--to honor journalists all over the world, and celebrate press freedom, it's because the majority of chatter this ad created on social media was that it came across as being self-aggrandizing and tone deaf.
Taken at any other time, the ad might have been seen as a fitting tribute to those who risk their lives, and in some cases lose their lives pursuing freedom of the press. But in today's climate when there some concerns about media accuracy and trust in mass media is still lowest among younger generations, perhaps this was not only the wrong time to run this type of ad, but not the best ad to run.
If sources are to be believed, this ad might not have aired, either. According to Page Six, another ad was supposed to run. "Jeff Bezos pulled the plug on a $20 million Super Bowl ad for his spaceflight company, Blue Origin, after it was revealed his mistress had helped shoot footage for the commercial."
What is most interesting to note here, isn't even the reactions from spectators who saw the spot, but the reactions from journalists.
Media elites love to preen about how besieged the journalism profession supposedly is, then they turn around and cheer $5.3 million spent on a self-righteous Super Bowl ad by the Washington Post, because that's totally something a besieged industry would have the resources to do
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) February 4, 2019
Journalism: We must layoff 2,100 people because we don’t have enough money
Also Journalism: We have $5.25 million to air a single television ad pic.twitter.com/v2RJKue8BO
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) February 3, 2019
These are just two of many responses from journalists. None were especially supportive of the ad. Perhaps it falls into the categoy of a cigarette company who spends a million PR dollars to tell the world they gave one hundred thousand to charity. Good effort. Not so good outcome.