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Having Beyoncé as the star of your Super Bowl ad doesn’t automatically make it a winner. Wait, yes it does.
Aside from having one of music and pop culture’s biggest stars as the center of the Verizon campaign, global agency Ogilvy helped win the night with two other national ads from CeraVe and Dove, along with two spots in the Canadian broadcast and two smart ads from Total by Verizon and Audi in the Spanish-language broadcast on Univision. Add in one viral social campaign around the game that referenced another pop star, and Ogilvy essentially won the game.
It’s a way that Ogilvy has stepped up as one of the most successful global agencies, winning multiple accounts over the last year and being named ADWEEK’s Global Agency of the Year in 2023.
“The Super Bowl fits into a bigger strategic conversation, which is how do you show up in culture in ways that become really authentic and meaningful for the brand? Because today, we’re not living in a world of paid; we’re really living in a world where brands need to associate themselves with culture,” Devika Bulchandani, global CEO at Ogilvy, told ADWEEK.
It takes a network
Pulling off that many ads in multiple markets and languages takes an entire network, and luckily Ogilvy has strong creative in all corners of the globe.
“It’s a benefit of having a big global network. These are the moments when you’re so grateful and lucky to have an organization of the global scale of Ogilvy with creativity in the DNA because it takes a lot of people from all different backgrounds, and capabilities,” Liz Taylor, global chief creative officer at Ogilvy, told ADWEEK.
Taylor praised everyone in the Ogilvy network, from social and PR specialists to creatives and data scientists and the team at David, Ogilvy’s boutique agency. She is also thankful for the clients for taking chances on not only a huge spend, but being willing to be boldly creative on the biggest stage.
Taylor and Bulchandani also praised Chris Beresford-Hill, president of advertising, North America at Ogilvy, who was instrumental in many of the campaigns. He recently moved to BBDO to be CCO of the Americas.
“We sent him off with lots of love, appreciation and gratitude, and we wish him well. He made us better,” said Taylor.
Beresford-Hill was proud of the work that he helped put out at Ogilvy and commended the team.
“When Ogilvy wins, we do it together. The amount of people, disciplines and offices that came together to deliver this incredible range of work is testament to that, and something I will always be proud of being part of,” Beresford-Hill told ADWEEK.
Verizon’s Bae moment
Beyoncé tried to break Verizon in her Super Bowl spot. With the help of Tony Hale, she goes through several one-upping situations trying to bring down the network, like breaking the internet.
From playing saxophone to being Barbie, bringing on a BeyoncAI and finally traveling into space to perform a concert. All the while, she impresses everyone but never manages to break the Verizon network.
It was a coup to get the star—who was also at the game—into a third quarter spot, and it upped the profile for the agency. The ad was even touted by Jimmy Fallon.
The artist also put a teaser for a country song on her Instagram feed.
Bulchandani said that the Ogilvy network has close to 300 social, PR and influencer specialists, who are constantly scanning to find out what’s buzzing from consumers, and they helped in the idea for the Michael Cera CeraVe campaign.
The lead-up to the CeraVe in-game spot had not only teasers, but full back stories, and it all started on Reddit.
Bulchandini said that the idea and insight came from social listening from its internal team. From seven years ago, they found a comment on Reddit that asked if Michael Cera was behind the brand, which sparked the campaign, which actually started on Reddit as well.
From there, the agency and brand worked with Cera to create a bizarrely fun backstory that built on the concept of Cera being the brains and inspiration for the brand, and they got famed comedy duo Tim & Eric to direct the spot.
“The concept was very much something that Tim [Heidecker] and Eric [Wareheim] live for, which is ridiculous, juvenile wordplay. We had a lot of ads on our first sketch show, ‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job,’ that we loved, that simple thing of taking someone’s last name and making it into a product,” Wareheim told ADWEEK.
Wareheim said that he and Heidecker are friends with Cera, and the concept seemed like a perfect combo of brand and actor. He also praised Beresford-Hill and the team at Ogilvy for their creative work and for the respect the agency had for the duo’s creative process.
“All of us together, it was a team effort to make something special,” said Wareheim.
Cera also had respect for the process and the team.
“The basic pitch from Chris and the creative team was funny to me right from the start and felt very exciting. And then when we were lucky enough to get Tim and Eric on to direct, it felt like we had a wonderful opportunity to do something very, very, very stupid,” said Michael Cera.
The CeraVe ad shows how a Super Bowl campaign isn’t just a one-off ad; it’s an extended campaign. Ogilvy’s desire to show up in culture and big moments also involves creativity and impact.
“How do you continue to build the brand, how do you work in the intersections of culture of social and how do you launch something and then sustain it for months and months after not just, like, a big one-off moment?” asked Taylor.
Dove tackles girls’ sports
Rather than utilizing humor, the Dove “Hard Knocks” spot continues the brand’s body positivity messaging. It shows girls taking hard hits or falls in sports, to the tune of “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” from Annie. The message shift exposes how girls drop out of sports because of low self-esteem associated with their bodies.
As part of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, the brand worked with Nike on research for its Body Confident Sport program to help build body confidence in 11- to 17-year-old girls.
Additionally, the brand is working with Kylie Kelce, Venus Williams and former NFL QB Steve Young and his daughters as ambassadors to the program.
“More girls and women are watching, a lot of moms watch the Super Bowl,” said Taylor, adding that Ogilvy is working at the intersections of health, social media of culture with Dove. “I think we’re bringing more people to the table.”
Ogilvy’s intercultural group helped put Spanish-language spots together for the Univision broadcast, for Audi and Total by Verizon.
The Audi campaign, “What Drives Us,” aims to reach the Hispanic community, which is the fastest-growing luxury segment in the U.S. The creative was directed by Wes Welker, the only person from Free the Work’s 2023 Super Bowl shortlist, which spotlighted diverse directors.
Total by Verizon’s campaign idea utilizes Elvis Crespo’s classic dance song, “Suavamente,” but reworked for the Total by Verizon plan in “Totalmente.” The video already has 242 million views and counting on YouTube.
“Being in the Super Bowl is a gift and we knew we had to go big and make a great impact with our investment, and Ogilvy’s clear vision for the integrated campaign and the creative pushed us to take risks and go out of our comfort zone,” said Cheryl Gresham, vp and CMO of the Verizon Value organization.
Gresham added that after the idea was pitched, the brand knew the blend of nostalgia and humor would strike a chord with the TelevisaUnivision audience as well as helping the brand with its marketing objectives and distinguishing the brand.
Using Canadian humor
Taylor and Bulchandani emphasized that the Super Bowl is a global viewing phenomenon, which is why they wanted to create spots for the Canadian broadcast that were uniquely Canadian.
The spot for TD Bank utilizes dry humor to promote, while one for H&R Block uses quirky scenarios about the certainty of doing your taxes.
“We’re really proud it’s very Canadian. It’s going to speak to that audience in the same way the Univision work is going to speak to its audience,” said Taylor.
The Tayvis effect
Beyoncé wasn’t the only pop superstar of the night. Of course, Taylor Swift showed up to root on her boyfriend, Travis Kelce. There was a worry, however, that she might not make it, since her tour had her performing in Japan.
Ogilvy’s Washington, D.C., office, which normally deals in affairs of the state, worked with the Embassy of Japan to help quell the angst of Swifties everywhere to assure them that Swift would be back in time. In less than 12 hours, it issued an “official statement” on X (Twitter), utilizing Swift’s songs and album titles in a cleverly worded few paragraphs.
The story was picked up by media outlets everywhere, and even made Jimmy Fallon’s monologue one night.
Ogilvy is proud of the diversity of its clients and its creative output for the Super Bowl, and the agency is using it as a stepping stone for its future. After celebrating 75 years in business, the agency now has a new chief creative officer in its New York headquarters, Samira Ansari, and it’s looking to continue to make its mark.
“We’re not just a one-hit wonder. We can do a range. There’s no one style, and I’m really proud of that,” said Taylor.