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From Random Thought to Super Bowl Spot: Making a Big Game Commercial

April 12, 2024

Written By:

Alex Jaumann

This is the story of serendipity, a little fool’s gold, and a big idea.

On February 11th, 2024, I’d just finished sauteing onions for our taco bar when my friend called out, “It’s on!” I turned off the stove, threw my spatula in the sink, and ran into the living room to watch the commercial I’d been working on for four and a half months: a :60 spot airing live during the year’s biggest TV broadcast.

Ok, let's back up a bit.

Way back in September 2023, I laid my eyes on one of the few subject lines guaranteed to catch the eye of any Creative: “Super Bowl Kickoff.” Super Bowl? Commercial? Us? Dream come true! I counted down the days until the kickoff meeting.

When the day finally came, we started our journey towards a Super Bowl commercial the same way we do with any ad–with strategy. Since this would be the largest, most engaged audience South Dakota ever had, our strategists came up with a simple north star to reintroduce South Dakota to the world: challenge the outdated misconception that the only thing the state has to offer is Mount Rushmore.

Aaaaaaand go.

Google, YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, our partners’ brains, we consulted them all. We read and reread the brief. We thought big, we thought crazy, we pulled back, and thought crazy again. Could we use the presidents? Hijack the broadcast? Create a petition? There was no shortage of ideas we taped up on the walls of 685 South Broadway.

Funny thing about the creative process: it’s as unpredictable as the weather in Colorado. By the time we met for our first creative meeting, we had several ideas we really liked, and one in particular that rose to the top. But after some pressure testing, that idea didn’t even make it to the client presentation. Sometimes, what looks like a winning idea in the moment is just fool’s gold.

Similarly, the best ideas often don’t reveal themselves until late in the game. Just a couple days before our second creative meeting, we put our heads together in an attempt to beat our existing concepts. Sometimes when Creatives get stuck, we just repeat phrases from the brief to see what stands out:

“Nostalgia. Celebrities. Humor. Animals.”

“16 million Americans are expected to skip work the day after.”

“People think South Dakota is a one-hit wonder.”

Hold Up!

What if we got a one-hit wonder to tell the world that South Dakota isn’t a one-hit wonder?

We looked up some famous one-hit wonders our target audience would recognize, we rewrote the lyrics, and a certain copywriter sang them (poorly) in our second creative meeting. While the high notes may have been a little flat, the concept was anything but. After we presented our shortlist of ideas to our Travel South Dakota clients, they could feel how much fun we had with our one-hit wonder concept. And they saw how that fun could translate to Super Bowl screens.

The green light was given.

Next step: make the thing. In what was both a marathon and a sprint, we (but mostly our producers, Becky and Maria) researched production companies, reached out to record labels, managed schedules, and spent countless hours either on the phone or writing emails.

By early December, we were quickly running out of days to lockdown a band with enough time to meet our deadline. But at roughly the 13th hour, our partners at Coupe Studios were able to secure a meeting between us and Nine Days, the band behind 2000’s hit single “Absolutely (Story of a Girl).” Which just so happened to be the first song we thought of when we were brainstorming one-hit wonders.

In what can only be described as serendipity, one of the production companies we found was run by none other than the producer of the original music video for “Absolutely (Story of a Girl),” Missy Galanida.

(Good creative doesn’t require luck. But it sure is nice when it comes your way.)

And so, the stars aligned. Nine Days said yes. Missy brought in seasoned music video director Isaac Rentz. We traveled to New York City to shoot the band and recreate their original music video. We even updated our media buy from a :30 to a :60 a mere seven days before the game.

And finally, on February 11th, we turned our eyes to the screen as the break between the third and fourth quarters began. After four and a half months of work, “Absolutely (Story of a State)” aired live during the Super Bowl.

This is the story of a big idea. The story of believing in a big idea. The story of pivots, and the story of a moment made thanks to countless hours of work by a countless amount of people.

Yeah, making a Super Bowl commercial can be a bit of a roller coaster. But like any good roller coaster, it’s worth the ride, and we can’t wait to do it all again. Because we’ve got more moments to make. And a whole lot more stories to tell.

"Its not wether you get knocked down"


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