How a Super Bowl ad is made, with Squarespace’s VP of creative

Squarespace is no stranger to the spectacle of the Super Bowl. This year, the American website hosting-turned all-in-one platform launched its ninth Super Bowl campaign with ​​‘The Singularity’ starring actor Adam Driver.

The in-game spot, directed by award-winning filmmaker Aoife McArdle, has Driver playing multiple versions of himself, struck by the idea that Squarespace is a website that makes websites. As he follows that line of thinking down the rabbit hole, reality itself begins to unravel, triggering a singularity event.

Ben Hughes, vice president of creative at Squarespace, is one of the brains behind ‘The Singularity’. He helps run the company’s in-house creative department, which is responsible for global advertising, brand design and content across different markets, including Australia.

Marketing spoke to Hughes for a peek behind the curtain at how a multi-million dollar Super Bowl campaign like ‘The Singularity’ comes together.

Marketing Mag: What first inspired the idea for ‘The Singularity’? How many ideas were left on the cutting room floor?

Ben Hughes: We create hundreds of ideas for each Super Bowl and a big part of the creative process is progressively whittling the field down to get to the very best one. Here, the inspiration came from our own founding story.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Squarespace and our founder used this to pitch the company to people as “a website that makes websites”. When we heard that, we knew it would make for an incredible ad.

MM: From idea to campaign launch, how long did it take Squarespace to create ‘The Singularity’?

BH: It was about nine months from initial briefing to final delivery. That includes all of the creative rounds to arrive at the idea, locking in the director and talent, production, post-production and trafficking.

MM: Squarespace’s Super Bowl ads often feature A-List celebrities. This year, did you explore the option of not featuring a celebrity? Why did you choose to feature one in the end?

BH: Our brand is all about creativity and we’re lucky to be able to attract partners who are artists at the pinnacle of their crafts.

Every year, we always look at some ideas that don’t involve celebrity talent, so it’s definitely not a mandate, but the combination of Adam and the Singularity script seemed to click perfectly. Fortunately, he agreed.

MM: Why was Adam Driver the right brand ambassador?

BH: We don’t really think about him as a brand ambassador. It’s more that he was the right partner to tell the story we wanted to tell.

Something we realised early on about this year’s idea was that the straighter you play it, the funnier it becomes. Adam is known for his intensity as an actor, but he’s also extremely funny, and we felt like he would totally commit to the absurdity of the idea.

MM: Do you think Super Bowl audiences will ever get tired of ads that are oversaturated with celebrities? 

BH: As long as there are Super Bowl ads, there will be celebrity Super Bowl ads. The human desire to watch famous people doing silly things is endless, not to mention that they come with their own audiences and passionate fan bases built in.

MM: How do you characterise and then approach the Super Bowl’s audience?

BH: I think it’s the last true mass audience. It’s very rare these days for so many people to be looking at the same thing at the same time.

That being said, we’re always trying to make an ad that’s the best expression of the brand, not the thing that we think the most people will like.

MM: How do you think ‘The Singularity’ stood out among the noise of other Super Bowl ads and entertainment?

BH: I think it was both the simplest ad in the game and the most visually rich.

MM: Squarespace released the behind-the-scenes teaser ahead of the big game. What does the company hope to achieve by releasing teaser content early, rather than waiting to launch on the big day?

BH: All of the content we create for the Super Bowl is rolled out in a very deliberate way. This year, we led with our behind-the-scenes film, which we used as a talent reveal moment.

It wasn’t originally designed to be a campaign teaser, but it ended up being a perfect way to bring people into the world of the campaign without giving away too much.

MM: What constitutes a successful Super Bowl ad in your eyes?  

BH: If we can make an ad that we love, that’s a great expression of the brand and that people talk about and write about, we consider that a success.

This article was first published on Marketing Mag


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