Skittles Chooses Broadway Over the Big Game
As the established leader in advertising intelligence, Kantar Media has been analyzing and reporting on Super Bowl ads for many years. So of course there’s no place we’d rather be than at the one and only showing of Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical – the brand’s unique spin on advertising during the big game. Building on last year’s ad shown to a single person, Skittles again rejected the Super Bowl’s mass audience of over 100 million viewers. Instead, it created an ad for a far more targeted one – the 1,500 people that fit into New York’s Town Hall theater and were willing to pay up to $200 to watch a 40-minute candy commercial. Did it hit the mark?
A play about a play. . . about an ad?
If Skittles’ desired target was affluent theater goers with an appreciation for the absurd, then the answer was decidedly yes. Starring actor Michael C. Hall and created by a team with impeccable off-Broadway credentials, the show was beyond meta. Arriving crowds were greeted by sellers of “knockoff” T-shirts outside the theater, and could buy only Skittles at the concession stand. The program included fake ads for tours of North Korea and a sneaker brand whose tagline was “Never stop buying.”
And then there was the show itself, which quickly demolished the fourth wall. It began in a convenience store located across from a Skittles musical being staged on Broadway, where Hall, playing himself as the dejected star of the show, stumbled in for a snack. It then moved on to Hall getting interrupted by “audience members;” discussing the nature of reality with them; leaving the show and being confronted by disgruntled show-goers; telling them they were just actors and questioning the existence of free will; getting killed in a riot at the convenience store; and meeting Winston Churchill and Amelia Earhart in the afterlife before a grand finale featuring a whirling dancer in a Skittles skirt and a confetti cannon.
The show also offered a literal look behind the curtain of advertising today. Its theme song “Advertising Ruins Everything” includes the lyrics “It ruins the web, and it ruins TV, and it fills our inboxes with spam/And there’s nothing we hate more than each time you pay for a targeted ad on Instagram.” The upset audience members noted that their negative experience at the show would likely impact their perception of the Skittles brand forever. And a phone-wielding executive’s observation that close to 600 bags of Skittles were sold in the theatre lobby ultimately inspired the triumphant ending.
So was it a good idea?
One thing the show didn’t dwell on was the joys of eating Skittles, although a few references to the brand’s slogan “Taste the rainbow” were thrown in. And the show itself likely would have gone well over the heads – not to mention the budgets – of kids who like candy. But as Skittles and its agency well understand, that hardly matters. The vast majority of Skittles customers will never see the show anyway – and the rehearsal videos the company released showcase the candy prominently. The company was also able to garner plenty of social and PR interest, including articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Ad Age and Adweek amongst many others.
As another Broadway show observed, “you gotta have a gimmick” – and Skittles’ surprisingly clever strategy is sure to help it stand out far more than yet another :30 spot with a cute baby or a talking animal ever could. We look forward to seeing – or more likely, not being able to see – what they come up with next year.
Want to learn more about Super Bowl advertising? Read our Historical Super Bowl Advertising Trends report, along with our post-game wrap up of Super Bowl LIII.