The Super Bowl remains the biggest stage in advertising. Over 103 million people watched the Eagles beat the Patriots in February 2018, according to Nielsen data. The average cost for a 30-second commercial was just over $5 million—or $168,333 per second. The right commercial can generate buzz across the globe and turn a new product into an instant success.
Everyone loves to talk about Super Bowl ads. The truth? Many ads are almost instantly forgotten.
Skittles is the top non-chocolate candy in the United States. Despite the growing focus on eliminating high-sugar snacks, Skittles' sales have continued to grow over the last five years. The Super Bowl is a big platform to keep the momentum going. But how can Skittles create something truly memorable without spending the $5 million for placement?
Marcos the rainbox.
Skittles made a Super Bowl ad for just one person.
Three weeks before the big game, Skittles announced they were making a Super Bowl commercial only for the eyes of teenager Marco Menendez, a real superfan found online. The outrageous plan generated headlines across the country from a wide range of media sources including Forbes, Bustle, Cosmopolitan and ABC News. The buzz continued to build as Skittles released oddball online teaser ads starring former “Friends” star David Schwimmer. “Is this really a scene from the new Skittles Super Bowl ad that only one person gets to watch?” Schwimmer teases in one spot while getting hugged by a large stuffed animal.
Skittles went to crazy lengths to customize the ad. They cast a look-alike main character. The ad features appearances from Marco’s real mom and best friend, and they shot scenes in his actual house.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Skittles allowed fans to watch Marco’s delighted reaction to the ad on Facebook Live for almost 20 minutes.
The campaign earned over 1.5 billion earned media impressions and made it onto multiple lists of the best Super Bowl ads from publications like Time and Business Insider. The campaign recently won a Clio Grand Award in the Digital/Mobile category, beating out tough competition from Xbox, which allowed gamers to make money from customized controllers, and Toyota, which helped you see the world through the eyes of a visually impaired skier.
What they said:
“Every other advertiser is going out there and showing their ad to 100 million people,” Matt Montei, vice president of fruit confections at Mars told Adweek. “We want to be the one brand who has the most exclusive ad in Super Bowl history. That’s the focus of the campaign. That’s why there’s a lot of content beyond just the ad itself, which is meant to start a dialogue, to speculate and to be highly entertaining.”
Lessons to be learned:
Digital first. — This campaign was created specifically for a digital audience. Marco was recruited from Instagram. Teaser ads were created with the intention of sparking online debate. The big payoff—Marco watching the commercial for the first time—was broadcast live online. This campaign wasn’t trying to work across mediums. It was trying to be great on digital. In 2018, 69 percent of adults in the U.S. used at least one social media site, up from 54 percent in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. The percentages are even higher for the younger consumers heavily targeted by Skittles. Eighty-eight percent of those 18–29 use at least one social media site.
Nostalgia works. — It’s no mistake that Skittles cast Ross from “Friends.” Consumers are more willing to part with their money when they are reminded of the past, according to research by the Journal of Consumer Research. Millennials have a strong affinity to nostalgia than previous generations. The uncertainty of modern life has caused younger generations to romanticize simpler times—even those times they weren’t around for. The use of nostalgia in the teaser ads was an easy way to create positive buzz.
The value of exclusivity. — In a world where consumers have access to more entertainment options than ever before, exclusive experiences cut against the grain and stand out. Withholding the ad made audiences even more curious about its content. According to a Business Insider article, brands have been experimenting with exclusivity to stoke demand—including the use of wait lists, limited supplies and products only available for a short time.