Procter & Gamble won’t be advertising in the Super Bowl this year, but the event has inspired an homage to a classic big game ad.
Grey’s “Stinky” for P&G’s Downy Unstopables remakes the “Mean Joe Greene” Coca-Cola spot that aired during Super Bowl XIV in 1980. The player remains the same—retired Pittsburgh Steelers star Greene—but the “kid” is now played by comic actress Amy Sedaris. And rather than air during Sunday’s game, the ad will run during NBC’s pregame show, between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
“Stinky” looks and feels like the old ad—down to the hoodie that Sedaris wears and the Steelers jersey over Greene’s right shoulder—but rather than a Coke, Sedaris hands Greene a bottle of Unstopables, a fabric freshener that P&G introduced last year. He enjoys the scent and, like in the original, tosses his jersey to the kid in gratitude. But after catching a whiff of the shirt, Sedaris makes a sour face and says, “Whoa,” before tossing it back.
“No thanks, Mean Joe,” Sedaris says.
“Last time I’m doing this,” Greene quips.
The last line wasn’t scripted but rather something Greene said off the cuff during the one-day shoot, which took place in Newark, N.J., at (ironically) a baseball stadium, according to Tor Myhren, chief creative officer and president of Grey, New York.
Grey needed permission from Coke to remake a memorable part of its advertising history. Initially, the agency sought to use the original footage and insert Sedaris digitally. Coke rejected that idea but said it was OK for Grey to reshoot the story line, Myhren said. That meant that Myhren either had to get Greene on board or use a contemporary player.
Greene, who had declined past opportunities to reprise his role, initially hesitated at participating. But after reading the script (and sensing the reverence of the new version), the gridiron legend signed on. With the goal of creating advanced buzz around the ad, P&G will post it on YouTube later today. The effort also includes a Twitter-based contest and additional video that will live on Downy’s website.
In a statement, the now 65-year-old Greene said that he “loved the idea of allowing fans to relive such a classic Super Bowl television moment in a completely new and humorous way.”
By buying time in the pregame show, P&G will save a lot of money and still reach a substantial audience. Thirty seconds during the game this year is selling for an average of $3.5 million. Last year’s game, with 111 million viewers, eclipsed the 2010 game to become the most-watched show in TV history.
In contrast, about 35 million watched last year’s pregame show, where commercial time becomes more expensive as kickoff nears and the audience grows. P&G declined to discuss the cost of the ad buy, but Adweek estimates a price of about $1 million.
Sedaris, who’s known for quirky characters in films like Elf and TV shows such as Strangers With Candy, became a spokesperson for Downy Unstopables last summer and has since appeared in several ads. In December, she also emceed a scavenger hunt for the brand that took place in Las Vegas and involved consumers using mobile phones to track down unique smells.
P&G selected Sedaris in part because she’s not a typical spokesperson. Her off-kilter persona represented a chance for P&G to stand out in an ad category known for product demonstrations and smiling faces. P&G representative Sarah Pasquinucci described Sedaris’ approach as “domesticity with a twist.”
Yes, there’s product information in Unstopables ads but there’s also an undercurrent of humor, thanks to Sedaris. The same could be said about “Stinky.” It’s a tribute to the feel-good ad that McCann Erickson created for Coke, but instead of a warm moment at the end, you get a punch line.
What’s more, on a day known for ads that cater to the wants and needs of men (beer, snacks, cars), P&G will stand out with a brand and ad designed to primarily reach women. After all, about 45 percent or 51 million of last year’s 111 million Super Bowl watchers were women. And while the new ad won’t be on the big stage, the execution feels Super Bowl-worthy.
“When it was briefed in at the agency, we just looked at it as a Super Bowl spot. That’s the way we’ve gone about it this whole time,” Myhren said. “It happens to be in the pregame [show], and I wish it was in the big game. But, you know, the pregame still has a much bigger audience than most any show of the year.”