National Geographic Is Making Its Super Bowl Debut With a Post-Halftime Ad for Its New Series

Gets plum spot to showcase 'Genius'

"Genius" premieres April 25 on National Geographic. Find out about Einstein's bad romance.
National Geographic / McCann New York

National Geographic Channel’s first-ever Super Bowl promo is pretty “genius.”

The network, whose parent company is 75 percent owned by 21st Century Fox, will air a 45-second ad directly after Lady Gaga’s halftime show. The spot, created by McCann New York, was just filmed in Prague on Monday of this week.

The spot is a promotion for NatGeo’s first scripted series, Genius, which premieres on April 25. Both the series and the ad star Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein. The series focuses on innovators, with the first season featuring Einstein. The show is still in production in Prague. Rush not only gave up his day off to shoot the promo, he learned to play Gaga’s “Bad Romance” on the violin.

“The song selection is a double entendre, actually,” said Courteney Monroe, the CEO of National Geographic Global Networks. “Not many people know that [Einstein] had a series of ‘bad romances’ in his life. You’ve only seen the crazy hair and learned about his intellectual advances.”

The spot ends with an homage to Einstein’s now iconic goofy face. Additionally, hidden within the ad is Lady Gaga herself. Viewers will be encouraged to look for her and reach out to National Geographic on its social channels with their best guesses.

Fox is absorbing the cost of airing this spot. At 45 seconds, that’s about $7.5 million. The show’s team handled the cost of production.

The Genius team knew only a couple of weeks ago that its series would get the plum Super Bowl halftime spot. Monroe thanks Peter Rice, the chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, for the “incredible support and belief in our ability to transform National Geographic” with the new series.

“The whole point of the series,” said National Geographic’s CMO Jill Cress, “is to understand the man behind the mind.”

“We had already been in talks with McCann for them to potentially do some strategy work with us,” Cress said, “so when I reached out and told them about this amazing opportunity, about how this would be intense, fast-paced and hopefully worthwhile, it was a testament to the agency they are that they jumped in to take on the challenge.”

I’m certain the condensed timeline helped us,” said Eric Silver, the North American COO for McCann. “While concepting, it forced us to be simple and visual all at once.”

I remembered a quote from Einstein’s second wife that he often played Mozart on his violin while brainstorming,” he said. “The violin seemed an elegant way to bridge that period in time with Gaga today.”

I believe this is the 15th Super Bowl commercial I’ve worked on,” said Silver, “and this is absolutely the one with the least pressure. There wasn’t time. Thank goodness.”

Monroe added, “We’re grateful for the fact that we got the spot at all, let alone the length of the spot and the placement within the game.”