A few minutes before halftime of Super Bowl LI, Terry Bradshaw showed up on what appeared to be live TV from the Fox broadcast booth at the Super Bowl in a promo for the FOX halftime show. However, it was something a little different than the halftime show that caught viewers’ attention:
While the majority of people who caught a glimpse of the stain quickly jumped at the opportunity of chastising Bradshaw for it, others quickly picked up on the possibility of it being an elaborate pre-taped stunt that teed up a commercial to be followed up late in the game with another commercial:
And surely enough, moments later, those who were skeptical of the stain’s authenticity were proven right when Bradshaw turned to Tide to handle his stain, marking the first time an advertiser had tried an integration so complex on so large a stage:
Although this was Tide’s first Super Bowl commercial in four years, the build-up to its airing was composed of four hilarious teasers featuring Rob Gronkowski and Jeffrey Tambor, who also starred alongside Bradshaw in the final ad. As the brand decided it was time to bring an element of surprise to a product that can already be found in almost half of the laundry rooms in America, the trio of star-power helped Tide top its prior award-winning Super Bowl ads, such as the 2013 “Miracle Stain” and 2008 “Talking Stain“. Failure would have been costly, though, because the ad campaign was ran in support of Tide with Downy Pods, the brand’s biggest launch of the year.
Along with the fact that it was “something that had never been done before, with Terry interrupting the middle of the game with a stain”, it was “that insight that everyone feels—the anxiety of a stain and how, in the end, Tide was what you trust to get it out” that brought brand directors to go in this direction for the advertisement. But once the basis of the advertisement was decided on, manufacturers Procter and Gamble (who also ran ads for Febreze and Mr. Clean) could not risk any leaks whatsoever, in an effort to preserve the surprise and the “social media blaze that executives hoped to ignite“.
Authenticity was a main focus of the directors, so they were pressured with the absolute necessity to make the beginning indistinguishable from the real game booth, waiting to see which four teams would make the playoffs so that the jerseys in the shot were correct, and filming the scenes showing Bradshaw outside the stadium seeking to wash his shirt at night because it was of the essence to “match the lighting of the Super Bowl” and when it comes to a Super Bowl ad, “everyone will not only look at it, they will actually dissect it“. Because of this wait, filming began only three weeks prior to the game.
Nevertheless, the brand created an entertaining ad with not only the goal to sell Tide, but to amaze and make people “look back and say, ‘How did they do that?’ ”.