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T-Mobile and Panay Films brought Zach Braff and Donald Faison back to the cul de sac for Super Bowl 58 and gave them a new neighbor for their musical 5G home internet recruitment efforts: Jason Momoa.
Braff and Faison initially discussed their internet options over the hedge to the tune of Steven Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein’s “I Feel Pretty” during the 2022 Super Bowl, and they turned Grease’s “Summer Nights” into a 5G sales pitch to neighbor John Travolta in 2023.
Audiences were into it, with last year’s installment ranking seventh out of 51 ads on the USA Today Ad Meter (ahead of T-Mobile’s other spot featuring Bradley Cooper and his mom, at No. 26), and placing 35th out of 66 in 2022, edging T-Mobile’s Dolly Parton (48) and Miley Cyrus (60) spots.
For T-Mobile’s second ad of this year’s Super Bowl—created and produced by Panay Films and airing during the fourth quarter—Braff and Faison try to bring a plate of wings over to Momoa’s house for a Big Game party, which is abruptly canceled when the cable/internet guy hasn’t shown up to connect Momoa’s antenna-free abode.
Braff and Faison remedy this in the best way they know how: With a song-and-dance number. Eschewing show tunes for Irene Cara’s theme from 1983 film Flashdance—the rare ellipses-titled Flashdance …What a Feeling—the duo cajoles Momoa into canceling the cable hookup for T-Mobile’s 5G home internet.
Both the hulking Aquaman/Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones and a musician with a massive guitar collection that includes pieces of living history, Momoa matches Braff and Faison step for step and note for note. When asked to sing the lyric, “I need home internet from T-Mobile to fulfill my life,” he meets the moment with a backflip into a pitchy high note, before walking off with a, “Yeah, wassup?!” and a tongue wag.
“Jason Momoa is just a great foil for lots of different reasons,” said Peter DeLuca, T-Mobile’s chief creative officer, who watched Braff, Faison and Momoa develop their dance steps together on set. “He’s a pretty darn decent singer and he wanted to have fun, so playing into his physicality and stature led to the humor of the spot.”
In the ad’s crowning moment, Momoa arches back into a familiar pose and is immediately doused with water from an unseen source. After a brief appearance by the T-Mobile logo and its signature tone, Flashdance star Jennifer Beals—who’s seen this scenario before—appears on a balcony above with a water bucket and a suggestion: “Do it again with your shirt off.”
DeLuca noted that while watching stunt doubles perform the scene, Beals provided Momoa notes on how to tighten up his glutes and core muscles so he didn’t fall over while doing the back bend. Those involved with the production credit Braff and Faison for not only connecting with audiences—analytics firm System1 put last year’s Travolta spot at No. 31 among its top 50 of 2023—but for creating a collaborative environment that keeps T-Mobile, Panay Films and the ads’ stars involved and ensures Super Bowl success.
“We believe people love the familiarity of these two characters, and we decided that if we could find something that was inspired and felt new and different in tone, then we would continue to create together,” said Andrew Panay, CEO of Panay Films. “What’s exciting about developing franchises like this is that you can keep upping the stakes and adding new stars to the team, like we did with Jason and Jennifer this year.”
Welcome to the neighborhood
For those keeping track, Braff and Faison’s T-Mobile neighborhood is really filling in. Not a backlot, but an actual cul-de-sac in Santa Clarita, Calif., the neighborhood now houses Braff, Faison, Momoa, Beals and Travolta within its exclusive, increasingly 5G-powered community.
“This was our third shoot there, so the neighbors are our friends,” DeLuca said. “This was literally the next-door neighbor’s house, and Travolta was across the street last year.”
While DeLuca and Panay wouldn’t confirm how much space there is for new neighbors, Braff, Faison and T-Mobile haven’t been shy about expanding the neighborhood footprint beyond the Super Bowl. They’ve shown what it looks like around the holidays with a tribute to Love Actually centered around T-Mobile’s offerings.
They’ve also opened the doors to their collaborative process, which they explained in detail on ADWEEK’s Adnatomy. Their commitment to both the exchange of ideas and musical numbers proved infectious, with Momoa bringing a guitar on set while shooting the latest Super Bowl ad.
“Every time we cut camera, Jason would pull this guitar and just start strumming it,” DeLuca said. “It’s just his way to get into character, but we were all just like, ‘Go for it, man—whatever works for you, we’re here for you.’”
Most important, wiring Braff, Faison and company’s neighborhood with 5G has significantly expanded T-Mobile’s neighborhood of customers. Before the “I Feel Pretty” ad aired in 2022, T-Mobile had roughly 600,000 home internet customers. By the time the Love Actually parody aired, they’d added 2 million after Travolta hit his high note, and another 2.1 million signed on for T-Mobile’s internet service in 2023.
Behind the dance moves, backflips, high notes, Flashdance flashbacks and “wings to chow” are two guys relentlessly pitching a home internet product as fast, easy to set up and available on an existing 5G network. DeLuca feels that the message is getting through.
“The spot is packed with the benefits of our product, [and] we’re leveraging creative to deliver the message in an impactful, breakthrough way,” DeLuca said. “Even though this is our third year with Zack and Donald, I still feel like we bring surprise to it.”
For the latest Super Bowl 58 advertising news—who’s in, who’s out, teasers, full ads and more—check out Adweek’s Super Bowl 2024 Ad Tracker and the rest of our stories here. And join us on the evening of Feb. 11 for the best in-game coverage of the commercials.
Agency: Panay Films
Creative Team: Andrew Panay, Brian Klugman, Nate Tuck
Directors: Walt Becker, Brian Klugman
Editor: Kevin Anderson