The companies that customarily advertise on the Super Bowl, which costs a cool $4 mill for a 30-second spot, are the ones with the might and clout to afford such a hefty price tag. They’re the market leaders and giant conglomerates that want to ensure their brand stays front of mind for the 10 million game-day viewers. Smaller companies, on the other hand, would be hard pressed to justify spending that kind of coin when business issues like making payroll aren’t that far behind them. So this year, Intuit–the company behind tax software TurboTax and Quicken–gave one small company a chance to have their moment in the marketing limelight.
As Intuit CEO Brad Smith explains, the company’s mission is to improve people’s financial lives and “do it in a way that you’d never imagine going back.” As part of the mission the company champions small businesses. This position led to the creation of the Small Business Big Game contest, wherein one small business would be awarded an ad spot in the Super Bowl. “We got together the best industry thought leaders and brainstormed something that’s never been done before and would change the lives of a small business owner but would also give voice to all 29 million small businesses,” says Smith. “That’s when we had the idea to create a campaign where the world could vote on the most inspirational small business story and we’d purchase a super bowl ad and professionally produce it where 100 million people would see it.”
So what was Intuit looking for in the small business they’d ultimately bring to the game? Says Smith: “They needed to be a company that was legal, one that wasn’t violating the laws or values of our country. We wanted a company that would have the ability to withstand the tremendous success that could come. And then we were looking for a company that represented Americana and the average small business.”
The competition drew over 15,000 entries. The public selected the top 20 companies, which were then narrowed down to four by 8,000 Intuit employees. Selecting the winner from the final four was up to the public.
GoldieBlox came out as the winner of the Small Business Big Game contest. The toy company geared toward getting girls interested in engineering, bested three other finalists vying for the big prize: Dairy Poop, a composting company; Barley Labs, a company that creates dog treats from the refuse of the brewing process; and Locally Laid, a natural egg farm.
Smith says that while all finalists received a lot of votes and support, Goldieblox won by a fairly wide margin, which is likely partially due to the fact that GoldieBlox gained notoriety last fall when it released an online video featuring a re-imagining of the Beastie Boy’s “Girls”. The video instantly went viral, as people loved the images of little girls at their inventing best (the Beastie Boys didn’t love it, of course, and lawsuits flew).
Though the product’s mission and the company’s story also captured voters’ imagination. “The founder, Debra Sterling, is a young lady that in her early years had a teacher who told her that she should try an engineering course. She took a mechanical engineering course and fell in love,” says Smith. “What she realized was that when you look at the boys aisle at toy stores you have things like Bill Nye the Science Guy and Bob the Builder. When you look at the girls toys, they have nothing to do with math, science or engineering. In the US, the number of women engineers is 14% and she believes, and it’s validated, that this is formed early on in society by the pink aisle. She developed a concept that brought together two very important skills: spatial skills and storytelling because girls want to understand why something is being built.”
GoldieBlox’s commercial, produced by agency RPA and directed by Filip Engstrom of Smuggler, won’t be aired on Feb. 2, but based on a couple of teasers that were, GoldieBlox is planning to bring a full-on assault of adorable girl power to the game. So boys, beware.
Smith is tight-lipped on the commercial’s content but he does reveal that “it’s high energy and the girls are coming. It’s this awakening moment for boys that the world beneath their feet is shifting. It shows girls creating something that will inspire people.”
While Smith’s hopes for the ad are high (“If I had a wish, it would be that this would be like 1984 when Steve Jobs bet it all on that one ad.”), he’s confident that the spot will pique people’s interest in the company. “It leaves you wanting to know more. We hope the real action starts on Monday after the game.”
On a personal note, Smith says he’s elated after Intuit’s first Small Business Big Game effort. “It’s been euphoric knowing that we could do something that lives up the mission that we can change someone’s life.”