Mint Mobile Gambled on Chunky Milk in a Super Bowl Ad. Did It Work?

It wasn't well loved, but it made an impact

Chunky Milk from Mint Mobile
A polarizing Super Bowl ad that hit the mark
Mint Mobile

The Super Bowl and its ads come and go. Sure, we might see a few awards doled out long after the final whistle, but, by and large, these spots can be somewhat perishable unless they make their way to a case study. (“The Force,” anyone?)

But there is no question that Super Bowl ads can be polarizing. Peeling back the curtain a little bit, there was one ad out of the 58 aired that resulted in a “many people typing” on Slack: “Chunky Style Milk” from the in-house team at Mint Mobile, produced by Ruffian in Los Angeles. If you want percentages, it’s safe to say that around 70% of the Adweek team working on Super Bowl Sunday didn’t much care for it. The other 30%? They loved it.

You’ve gotta hand it to the 3-year-old wireless company for giving it a go to stand out.

“We’re looking for a reaction to it,” Aron North, svp of marketing and creative for Mint Mobile, told Adweek in February. “If you dull the edges of the work, people will forget your brand.”

Six months later, we were curious to find out if the ad actually worked (even though it landed at No. 53 out of 58 ads in USA Today’s Ad Meter list) and asked Evan Silver, director at Ruffian, how it all went down.

Adweek: What were your initial reactions/discussions with the brand about the idea?
Silver: I remember thinking, “Are they really going to let us do this?!” The client understood they needed to be daring creatively to stand out, especially going up against the billion-dollar telecommunication giants on advertising’s biggest night. And they never flinched.

With something as risqué as Chunky Milk, we needed to be very clear in our approach. So I talked a lot with the creatives about finding the right comedic tone and how the casting, performance and overall film look needed to set up the joke. So when the chunks poured out, it’s a total surprise. And makes you think, did I just see that?!

Super Bowl ads generally make an impact, one way or the other. What was the feedback/reactions that you and the brand received after the spot aired?
The goal was to make something funny and memorable that could deliver on Mint’s campaign line, “That’s not right!” The spot created a ton of buzz and scored at the top of every brand name recall survey, which was a huge win. It also made a bunch of Top-10 Best Super Bowl Ad lists and spawned countless repostings, memes and unsponsored tweets from sports icons to celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres.

The spot impacted viewers in a big way. They either loved or hated it, which is what you want—our biggest fear was to go unnoticed. Of course, a few lactose-sensitive sports fans blamed us for ruining their big game nachos. Even the dairy farmers got into the fray, arguing for and against the spot online, which was pretty amusing and surreal, considering everything else going on in this country right now.

Let’s be honest, this was kind of gross … but funny. How did you balance the “shock” and keeping it funny?
We needed to approach the humor in a way that would surprise viewers. So I played it straight, treating the spot akin to a serious milk product as opposed to a comedy skit. This gave the story an unexpected wholesome feel, which made the milk gag seem even more “wrong.” I never wanted to wink at the joke or soften the blow for the viewers. The infamous pour shot had to come out of nowhere. Some viewers thought they were watching a real ad for Chunky Milk, which is what we hoped for.

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