Jokes about Donald Trump and his border wall are now routine late-night TV and comedy sketch material. So when a startup Southern California company wanted to gin up some attention for its 360-degree camera, the premise for the commercial was obvious: There's President Trump unveiling a giant wall on the border of Mexico, and when a camera pulls back, there are mariachis and churro vendors tunneling under it into America. "Get a broader perspective," the motto reads.
But television executives have declined to air the spot because they are worried about political neutrality and reinforcing stereotypes, says Peter Adderton, chief executive of 360fly.
Standards and practices staff for two networks said they didn't know about the spot and declined to elaborate. Industry sources who declined to be named pointedly said small companies have been known to try to get headlines with similar claims and no proof. Others suggested there is a fine line between a commercial for a product and political advertising less than five months before an election.
A source with the team helping 360fly with marketing told The Times the networks had intoned they want to remain politically neutral and don't want to be seen as poking fun at an ethnic group. A company source declined to provide the documentation showing the spot was rejected, saying it was legally protected by nondisclosure agreements with the networks.
A similar message came from the networks.
"It's our policy not to comment on specific spots, but all spots are reviewed to ensure that they meet the standards and expectations of our local viewing audience," said Mike Nelson, a KCBS-TV spokesman.
Another network told The Times there was no record of 360fly in its system, and its standards and practices staff doesn't recall seeing an ad that matches this one.
Adderton said Fox would broadcast the spot — which he insists is parody and satire, and not anti-Trump — this week. After this story was published, Marc Altieri of The Brand Amp marketing team said 360fly decided against airing on a local Fox channel and Fox News Channel. Instead, he said, the video would air online with the Onion, Complex and Funny or Die.
"We didn't take a political side," Adderton said, noting the commercial also depicts Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders welcoming and helping the border violators as they arrive on U.S. soil. "Our point is a positive point."
Adderton, a native of Sydney, Australia, who has lived in the U.S. for 15 years but can't vote here, says his commercial is a commentary on the dynamic he's observed in American politics.
"I talk to Republicans and Democrats and independents, and everyone has got a singular point of view and is not willing to look at others' point of view," he told The Times. "But there are multiple sides," which needs a "360 approach." (Get it?)
He said he is politically conservative, votes with Australia's conservative Liberal Party, and considers himself aligned with Republicans here. "Like everybody else, I am quite confused at the moment," he says of Trump.
The chief executive said focus groups of Republicans, Democrats and Latinos overwhelmingly loved the spot and "had a little bit of a laugh." He's not shy about admitting his ultimate goal is to sell his cameras, which retail for less than $500.
"We want to get our name out there and our brand out there and this is how we're trying to do it."
1:30 p.m.: This article was updated to clarify that documentation from the networks about the spot is protected by a nondisclosure agreement.
9:40 a.m.: This article was updated with details about where the spot would air.