It's the eternal Super Bowl conundrum: Make a funny ad with people, or make a funny ad with puppies? If you're CarMax, you do both.
For its first Super Bowl appearance since 2011's "Kid in a Candy Store," the auto retailer and agency Silver + Partners have created a game-day spot called "Slow Clap," along with a Web version called "Slow Bark" that re-creates the ad shot for shot with puppies.
"The task came down to what we could do to get people engaged with the ad in advance of the game," Laura Donahue, CarMax vp of creative marketing, tells Adweek. "The agency came to us with a strategy of increasing buzz and conversation about the brand: What if CarMax was the first advertiser who remade a game-day commercial with an all-furry cast?"
In "Slow Clap," we see a CarMax customer driving home in his new car, while a wide array of characters line the street to give him solemn applause in the vein of a Hollywood sports drama. He passes cheerleaders, competitive pie eaters, a park ranger with a bear and several more, including a cameo from Sean Astin reprising his 1993 role from Rudy.
In "Slow Bark," we see pretty much all the same stuff, but with dogs. And judging by how many times my children just made me replay the clip for them while writing this up, it's probably going to be a hit.
Harold Einstein at Station Film directed the human version; Ronnie Koff of Imaginary Forces directed the puppy version.
Donahue says she'd be OK with the puppy version of the ad becoming a bigger YouTube success than the actual Super Bowl version. Both online iterations of the ad are 45 seconds, while the edit you'll see during the game is a :30.
"I will feel excited about any of our combined efforts around the Super Bowl that generate enthusiasm around our brand," Donahue says. "Whether it's the puppy version or the extended version of the ad running online, any of those outcomes is great."