5 Takeaways From Tide’s Full-Blown Super Bowl Blitz

A blueprint for hijacking the biggest advertising day of the year

Will other brands try to replicate Tide's success?
Tide/Procter & Gamble

Sunday night’s game may have been between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England’s Patriots, but Tide’s commercial takeover stole the advertising show.

Over the course of four hours, Tide slowly rolled out its elaborate “It’s a Tide Ad” campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi New York, starting with a somewhat confusing ad in the first quarter that asked viewers to question whether every ad they saw was actually a plug for the laundry detergent brand. Eventually, the full campaign was revealed to be a big, self-aware joke on the advertising world that has all the makings of a successful campaign—interesting and fun talent (Stranger Things’ David Harbour), a new story and a social media war room full of preplanned tweets and GIFs.

But in other ways, Tide flipped the script on a typical Super Bowl success story with a fascinating media plan, smart brand integrations and a little bit of luck.

1. Savvy celebrity integrations

Harbour was the main face of Tide’s campaign, but the brand also worked with a handful of popular celebrities and athletes to spread the campaign online.

Betty White was at the center of Tide’s influencer campaign as were four other influencers: NFLs players Drew Brees and Antonio Brown, Danica Patrick and Old Spice pitchman and actor Isaiah Mustafa.

Through well-planned tweets that posted in sync with Tide’s TV spots, the celebrities questioned whether they too had been in a Tide ad, which only continued Tide’s deceptive but brilliant messaging.

2. Brand mashups

Trying to hijack the Super Bowl requires more work than hiring celebrities and firing off some tweets though. It takes a village, so Tide enlisted the help of Old Spice and Mr. Clean (which are also owned by P&G) and Budweiser to get in on the act.

Tide’s commentary on other brands made for a superb self-aware reflection on just how ridiculous Super Bowl commercials are and put a new twist on the laundry detergent’s goal of blending seamlessly into every ad.

Pinpointing Old Spice and Budweiser specifically was also an intriguing move. Budweiser’s iconic Clydesdales are long staples of the Super Bowl that have captivated viewers. And while Old Spice has technically never run a Super Bowl ad, its spokesman Isaiah Mustafa is synonymous with Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign.

3. Milking the media plan

It may have seemed like Old Spice ads ran every few seconds, but Tide only purchased 90 seconds of ads, equivalent to $15 million at $5 million per 30 seconds.

The longest 45-second ad aired during the first quarter, followed up with 15-second ads for each following quarter. In theory, anyone who tuned into the game for at least a quarter could have seen a Tide ad. And if you saw all four ads, even better.

Compare that strategy to Amazon’s, which ran a 90-second ad during the fourth quarter of the game.

Spacing out the buy to last for the entire game kept the brand in people’s minds the entire night and also created lots of fodder for the social media war room that was responsible for keeping an audience engaged for the length of an entire game.

4. In-game animation

At the start of the third quarter, just after kickoff, fans eager for the second half to start briefly saw an in-game promo for Tide. A side-by-side image of Harbour wearing Eagles and Patriots jerseys flashed for a split second on TV with an image of the Tide logo below it.

The NFL was clearly in on the act, too, pushing out a tweet that read, “Eagles vs. Patriots? More like #TideAd vs. #TideAd.”

5. Pure luck

Like all good Super Bowls, there’s only so much prep brands can do ahead of time before sheer luck kicks in.

After poking fun at Mr. Clean, Old Spice, mattress companies and automakers, Tide kept its biggest riff (on Super Bowl favorite Budweiser) under wraps until the fourth quarter.

The 15-second spot poked fun at Budweiser’s Clydesdales and ran directly before Budweiser’s own commercial, leaving some to speculate whether Budweiser’s commercial was actually a Tide ad.

People inside Tide’s war room were surprised that their ad ran before Budweiser’s. It could only be pure luck.

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