Tom Hanks Helps Washington Post Highlight Importance of Journalism in Its First Super Bowl Ad

The spot aired in the fourth quarter

The 60-second ad was the Post's first ever in a Super Bowl. Washington Post
Headshot of Sara Jerde

The Washington Post used its first Super Bowl ad to highlight the importance of journalism.

With actor Tom Hanks narrating, the 60-second ad aired in the fourth quarter, just before the two-minute mark.

Hanks narrated the spot, as photos of notable events, including the Selma March and landing on the moon, were show on the screen.

“When we go off to war, when we exercise our rights, when we soar to our greatest heights, when we mourn and pray, when our neighbors are at risk, when our nation is threatened, there’s someone to gather the facts, to bring you the story no matter the cost,” Hanks said.

At this, photographs of journalists who were killed in the line of duty, including Austin Tice, Marie Colvin and the Post’s own Jamal Khashoggi flashed on the screen.

“Because knowing empowers us, knowing helps us decide, knowing keeps us free,” Hanks said.

In the ad, Hanks stopped speaking as The Washington Post’s story came to the forefront of the screen, with the publication’s slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Hanks played Ben Bradlee, the Post’s executive editor, in The Post, the 2017 movie about the Pentagon Papers.

The spot, announced late on Friday, was pulled together in less than a week, Fred Ryan, publisher and CEO of The Washington Post, said in a statement.

“We feel that this is the right moment, at the right venue, to present this important message to the large audience of Americans and international viewers that watch the Super Bowl,” Ryan said.

The ad highlighting the work of reporters was a timely one, especially given the conversation President Trump had with The New York Times over what NYT publisher A. G. Sulzberger referred to as “anti-press rhetoric.”

Amazon, which is owned by Jeff Bezos (who also owns The Washington Post), also had a sizable presence in the game with ads focused on its voice technology and upcoming Amazon Studios show, Hanna.

But, he took to Twitter to specifically say he was “grateful” for WaPo journalists.

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@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.