A key ingredient to some of the best Super Bowl ads is the use of unexpected celebrity. In recent years, such brands as Amazon, Tide, and Squarespace have found fun and surprising ways to utilize big names at the big game.
But sometimes this strategy can feel strangely random. Busy Philipps, Taraji P. Henson, and an astronaut for Olay? Okaaaaaay. Bryan Cranston and Tracee Ellis Ross riffing on The Shining for Mountain Dew? Yeah, sure? It’s almost as if marketers are playing celebrity bingo, or participating in some sort of game-night scenario, tossing darts at a giant board filled with celebrity names and scenarios.
Although Jonah Hill, Martin Scorsese, and a house party sounds like exactly the scenario that produced those other spots, the concept, developed with agency Wieden+Kennedy, is around a universal situation in which one friend doesn’t feel like going out, while another does. “We felt like people could relate to this and see Coke Energy as a way to give you that boost,” says Geoff Cottrill, Coke’s SVP of strategic marketing for creative.
The last time Coke used celebrity power in its Super Bowl sell was 2016, teaming up with Ant-Man and the Hulk. But this time, they were going for a different vibe, and the first name they landed on to star in the spot was Jonah Hill. Because the ad revolved around a friendship, once Hill agreed to sign on, they started talking about potential commercial comrades.
“When we started working with him, we said, this is about two friends, do you have a friend you’d suggest?” says Cottrill. “And he said, how about my buddy Martin Scorsese? We all just looked at each other . . . and so we called up Mr. Scorsese.” [Bonus points if you catch the irony in the beverage giant enlisting the director who slagged Marvel films as “worldwide audiovisual entertainment” for its return to using celebrities in its Super Bowl ad.]
Hill, of course, had worked with the director in 2014’s The Wolf of Wall Street and received an Oscar nomination for his work, and Cottrill says the chemistry between the legendary director and award-winning actor was immediately evident. “When they were both on set, it quickly became clear how genuine their friendship is, so it really is a story of two friends in a universal situation.”
The spot wouldn’t have been the same with a different combination, and Cottrill sees it as confirming the importance of collaboration, even on an ad as big as the Super Bowl. “That’s the benefit to working with creative talent and allowing them to participate in a way to make the work better.”