A Super Reunion For America's Heroes: An Interview with Innocean Worldwide.
By Jeff Finkle.
The Super Bowl went from a laugher to a nail-biter and after the over-time ending for the ages, Hyundai aired their ambitious and heart-warming Super Bowl spot that they shot and produced during the course of Super Bowl 51. We would like to thank Bob Rayburn, VP/ Group Creative Director of Innocean Worldwide for taking the time to discuss the ad with us.
AdForum: Did the interesting history between the NFL commissioner and the Patriots factor in at all into buying the slot before the trophy ceremony or was it just the most logical slot to have for Hyundai, considering you were shooting and editing your 90-second spot as the game was being played?
Bob: We were aware of the possibility, since the Patriots were everyone’s pick to win. That storyline throughout the season was hard to ignore considering the tear Tom brady was on. It was clear he was looking for redemption and the probability was high that the “podium moment” would happen. That being said, we would have gone after that post gun slot regardless. It just turned out in our favor. We wanted to own the Super Bowl and the post-game conversation without being In the game.
AdForum: Whose idea was it to produce and edit the ad during the game, and to reunite soldiers with their family members at the Super Bowl as the theme of the ad?
Bob: The idea itself dictated that we had to shoot and edit during the game. If you are going to promise giving the troops a Super Bowl experience, then add the surprise of their family, they had to already be watching the game. The idea came from several authors, Brad Beerbohm, Bob Rayburn, Barney Goldberg, and Eric Springer. It started with the idea of doing a 360- immersive experience at the Super Bowl. Then we added the thought that we should do it for people who can’t physically make it to the game, our troops. Finally, the cherry on top was the thought of surprising the troops with their families. Then we engaged Peter Berg, who has allies in the NFL, FOX, and the Department of Defense. As a filmmaker, who better to bring the emotion of football and soldiers together than the man who brought us Friday Night Lights and Lone Survivor.
AdForum: How much did your creative team work with Director, Peter Berg and his crew on the day of the Super Bowl, or in this case, the day of the shoot?
Bob: All of the hard work and collaboration was done prior to the game itself, we rehearsed the technology, the movements, the camera positions, we created animatics, etc… We were not going to leave anything to chance on the day of the game. The stakes were too high. That being said, we couldn’t rehearse with the actual soldiers because of the surprise. So, there was an element of “Is this going to work?”. With all that prep done, on the day of the Super Bowl, Peter was sequestered in a truck directing 10-12 cameras to get everything we needed in a half hour. Once the footage was shot we all weighed in on the edit and went through the approval process together.
AdForum: What was it about equating watching the Super Bowl with a feeling of “home” and enabling soldiers to see their families on a big screen while both experienced watching the game, that drove home Hyundai’s brand message of making things “better”?
Bob: In America, the Super Bowl is basically a national holiday. And it’s those times, that are normally spent with the ones you love, that makes a soldier stationed halfway around the world feel isolated and disconnected. Our troops overseas are our heros every day. We wanted to be their hero at least for a day. Helping connect them to their families. The idea of “Better” was a core thought all along, it’s what caused us to ask the question. How do we make the Super Bowl better for those that make the Super Bowl possible? Any company can make a spot that talks about being “Better.” We wanted to do more than talk, we wanted to prove it. And to Hyundai’s credit they went out and did it.
AdForum: What was the biggest challenge in working with the U.S. military and the logistical obstacles of throwing a Super Bowl party for troops in Poland at the same time as your production team was shooting and editing the ad during the game?
Bob: The biggest challenge, was keeping the secret that the families would be at the super bowl waiting for the soldiers. It required the families not to divulge the secret even while constantly communicating with their loved ones as they boarded planes to Houston etc… One of the family members even had to tell their soldier that their facetime was “broken” to avoid letting the secret out. Of course, the logistics of getting all these entities on the same page, FOX, NFL, HYUNDAI, The Military, Pony show, Film 45, was a study in patience and resolve to keep the idea pure. In terms of the logistics on the day, the party for the soldiers etc… We have some of the best producers in the business at Innocean, and their counterparts at Film 45 and Pony show are all top notch. As a team, they were the ones on the front lines every day, fielding daily calls with the likes of the NFL, Fox, and all the vendors. They had to diffuse any land mines that came up, and work around any challenges that arose. They were all nothing short of amazing.
AdForum: What did you think of the Super Bowl ads overall this year, compared to recent years and did you have a personal favorite, outside of your agency’s spot for Hyundai?
Bob: I really liked the Squarespace John Malkovich stuff, it didn’t have mass appeal like all the beer or car spots, but it was unique, funny, and well written. In terms of the spots as a whole, it felt like an average year. Some good some bad, and a lot stuck in the middle. It seemed like a lot of companies wanted to get political, and with our national narrative right now, that is an easy trap to fall into. We wanted to be for the soldiers, for reuniting families, and we wanted better for them all. We felt that was beyond any political party line, those folks over there are protecting our freedom and they deserve our support in any way possible.