While millions of fans tuned in to watch the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks go head to head in Super Bowl XLIX, brands took the battle off the field in a competition featuring some of the year's top creative ideas, celebrity cameos, clever copy and of course, spectacular effects. We're taking you beyond the concepts in our Super Bowl blog series featuring interviews with the creative minds responsible for several of the night's best spots.
The Super Bowl XLIX ad promotes the all-electric BMW i3
by reminding viewers that big ideas take a little getting used to. The 60-second commercial begins with a 1994 clip in which the confused Today Show hosts discuss that new thing called the “Internet”. Jumping ahead to 2015, Katie and Bryant have discovered another mind-boggling innovation — the BMW i3.
We asked KBS+
Group Creative Director/Copywriter Marc Hartzman
and Executive Creative Director/Art Director Paul Renner
to discuss the concept behind the ad and the current - and future - state of Super Bowl advertising.
Take us through your process of coming up with the concept. What was the insight that sparked the idea?
MARC: The insight was that the BMW i3 is not for everyone. Itʼs true, not everyone is ready to switch to an all-electric lifestyle. At least not yet. At some point, weʼll all be driving electric and will look back and laugh about ever questioning it. With that thought, I remembered seeing old clips on YouTube about people discovering the Internet in the early 1990s, including The Today Show clip. Using that clip felt like a great parallel—and a very entertaining one.
PAUL: We looked at well over 200 scripts during the few weeks we had to come up with that one big idea. Basically the whole agency was writing. When Marc brought in that clip, we knew there was some magic attached. We just had to figure out how to land it. And hoped Katie and Bryant would be good sports and play with us.
How did you discover the infamous 1994 clip to include in the ad? How did the talent respond to the idea?
MARC: I had seen the clip on YouTube, as I mentioned previously. When we decided to add Katie and Bryant befuddled in the i3, we had no idea if theyʼd go for it. In fact, we had heard Bryant was not a fan of the clip. But then we got the boards to their agents and Bryant really liked it. Katie was in too. They were both very enthusiastic about the creative and a true pleasure to work with.
PAUL: It was a great feeling when both Katie and Bryantʼs agents came up to us on shoot day and said that as soon as they read the “Newfangled Idea” script, they were all in. We constantly work at warp speed (and in 30-second intervals) in this business, so it was nice to take that compliment and let it soak in…okay, on to the next question.
How did the ad change from the initial concept to the final version?
MARC: Initially we talked about showing the clip and then making a statement about the car as being another newfangled idea like the Internet. It was going to be a :30. But then we pushed it further and brought Katie and Bryant into the car to make the same point in a much grander and more entertaining way. And made it a :60.
PAUL: All along, from beginning to end, we really stayed focused on keeping the integrity of that clip. Even though there is some movie magic involved (thanks to The Mill!), we did not want people to think we altered the pure confusion that really took place on set that day in 1994. I mean, we were all right there with Katie and Bryant! What is the Internet anyway! We also stayed focused on creating a direct parallel with that confusion from the early Internet to the confusion that is associated with the future of mobility, which is the BMW i3. What is i3 anyway?
Why did BMW i3 decide to return to the Super Bowl this year after a four year hiatus?
MARC: BMW was looking to push the BMW i3 and create mass awareness— what better place than on the worldʼs biggest stage? Electric mobility is important to BMWʼs future and this car is just the beginning.
How does creating an ad or campaign for the Super Bowl differ from a "regular" commercial? Do you tailor the creative for the mass audience, press coverage or online buzz expected from the event?
MARC: We never want a regular commercial to be regular. But for the Super Bowl, thereʼs certainly a push to make it bigger and better than any other ads. That means making a smart point in a way that will make 100 million Americans want to talk about it the next day (or the next minute through social media). Getting press coverage and buzz is huge because it amplifies awareness and gives the client a much greater ROI. So to do that, you look for ideas that will resonate with a mass audience and get people talking. We knew reuniting Katie and Bryant and using that old clip had that potential.
PAUL: And to add, creating an ad for the Super Bowl is such a laid back process. Itʼs kind of under the radar. There are no eyeballs on you and your blank piece of paper in front of you…so there is no pressure at all…. That couldnʼt be further from the truth.
What makes a great Super Bowl ad standout from the pack? And which past ad(s) are your favorite(s) that achieve this?
Ideas are always king. So a smart, funny idea will do the trick. A couple of past Super Bowl ads that stand out to me: First, the FedEx [We Apologize (1998)] ad
with the TV color bars because a clientʼs ad didnʼt ship since they didnʼt use FedEx. So simple and smart. It didnʼt need anything wacky, it was just rooted in an idea and forced you to watch and read every word.
Also, I love the eTrade [Wasted $2 Mill (2000)
] ad with the dancing monkey that tells the viewer at the end that they just wasted $2 million bucks and asks what youʼre doing with your money. It was such an intriguing visual that left viewers wondering what the hell was going on, then had a really smart payoff.
PAUL: Marc has very good taste in Super Bowl ads from the past. I think the greatest ads in general donʼt talk down to the consumer. Give them a little credit and challenge them. Let them connect some dots. And then throw a fart joke at the end, and you make the Ad Meter Top 5!
In your opinion, how has the creative in Super Bowl ads evolved over the years? How do you think it will evolve over the next five years?
MARC: Well, certainly the marketing of the ads has evolved. We now release them before the Super Bowl. It seems like such a weird thing, but looking back at this past week with our BMW ad, itʼs pretty smart. Our ad had a chance to shine on its own with its launch during a Today Show segment. It got a ton of press before ever airing on the game, including more than 4 million views within the first two days. With that kind of exposure, the clients are getting much greater bang for their buck. I imagine the trend will continue, with marketers finding more and more ways to promote the work before, during and after the game.
PAUL: My inside sources say that in five years the NFL will release the game a week early. Play by play. Some :60ʼs, :30ʼs and maybe some :15ʼs. If they are lucky, get the Today Show to premiere a few of them. Create some buzz. And then rerun it between all the Super Bowl ads on Sunday.
New England Patriots or Seattle Seahawks?
MARC: Iʼm a Broncos fan, so it was a tough post-season for me. But Iʼm over it and very excited for this game because these are two incredible teams and should be a fantastic game. I can enjoy it without any stress. Somehow, I think Seattleʼs defense will find a way to win. Those guys are terrifying. I mean, Kam Chancellor can leap over an offensive line. Itʼs ridiculous.