“So, the audacity of overtly ignoring the only reason for having an advert in the Super Bowl is a little atom-splitter isn’t it? And who can resist a little abuse of privilege? It brings out the best in you.”
These are the words of Walter Campbell, creative head of business development at MPC and Immortal Awards juror (and creator of one of the most immortal ads ever, Guinness 'Surfer'). Walter was a staunch supporter of Skittles' groundbreaking Super Bowl campaign 'Exclusive the Rainbow' when judging the inaugural Immortal Awards recently in New York. The campaign went on to become one of only four campaigns from the opening year to be awarded Immortal status.
Exclusive the Rainbow was unlike any campaign that had ever come before it. Yes, it was a campaign that a brand made specifically for the Super Bowl. The catch though was that the final ad would only be ever shown to one person. That one person was Marcos Menendez, very much a regular Joe, real-life teenager from Canoga Park, California.
"This was more than just the best Skittles [ad], it’s one of the best commercials I seen in my entire life, actually,” said Marcos in a press release after seeing the film. Scenes from the ad were even filmed in Marcos’ dining room.
In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, the brand teased several possibilities for the spot, each featuring David Schwimmer in a different get up. In the end, the version of Schwimmer featured in the ad was the glowing-eyed, bowl-cut iteration – according to Marcos, the spot saw Schwimmer turn people into Skittles using his laser powers.
"Everyone knows Skittles as a brand with a history of offbeat and unique advertising," DDB Chicago executive creative director Colin Selikow told us upon launch in February
. "What makes it so unique is never being predictable. With so many marketers creating an ad that appeals to 100 million people, Skittles wanted to forge a different route – make a customised ad exclusively for one person and pretty much guarantee they’d love it. It’s an idea that fit perfectly with their DNA."
He added: "Ideas like this don’t come around very often. They get made even less often than that. It’s a testament to what happens when a great idea, a brave client and a big team of talented and dedicated people come together."
Reflecting on the campaign now, in the wake of its Immortal Award win, Colin adds: "Historically Skittles work is hard to define and goes where a lot of brands wouldn’t. With that as their DNA it makes it a little easier to create a case for an idea like this. With that as a starting point, and knowing that we were entering the most crowded marketing environment of the year without having an ad in the game and a small spend, we knew we had to do something to jar people into paying attention. Telling consumers that we were going to all the trouble of creating a real Super Bowl ad that only one random person would see is so counter to what people expect, and opposite of what brands have been doing during the Super Bowl for so long, we were confident it would get noticed. In a weird way, given who we are and where we were playing, an idea like this is the most logical thing we could have done."
Considering that this campaign was never going to air and - yes, we know we've mentioned it - was only going to be seen by one person, arguably its most important element was social, and the drumming up of conversation amongst consumers. "If you think about the stories people love to share, that really get passed around, so many of them are funny or unusual, and different enough to break through the ocean of content and information that bombards us every day," says Colin. It’s not just about making sure each piece of creative delivers those reactions, or what media it’s in, but making sure the idea itself is weird and funny enough that people will share it. It’s as simple as that."
Colin never lacked faith that Exclusive the Rainbow would generate the conversation it needed and deserved though, due to its "inherently social" nature. "From there it was finding the best way to get the idea in front of people and letting it do its thing," he adds. "Whether we were teasing people by having them guess which of these insane scenes was from the ad they would never see, or having them tune in to Facebook Live to watch Marcos watch an ad they would never see, the campaign was designed to spark conversation."
"So I can really never show anyone this and it can't go on my reel?"
Brought on to direct the film targeted at one person was MJZ's Steve Ayson, a director with a history of funny, quirky and unmistakable work. Upon seeing the script, he was immediately drawn in by its "dark and very funny" vibe. "My favourite combination," he quips. "My second reaction was - so I can really never show anyone this and it can't go on my reel?"
All jokes aside, Steve immediately saw the potential in the idea and the opportunity for all involved to do something really special. "[It had] never been done before, super bizarre scripts, the stealth idea of shooting in this one kid's house and neighbourhood, that it all might fail, that it might all be genius, 'The Schwimm', the freedom and experimentation that Ruth [Bellotti, art director], Nathanial [Lawlor, copywriter] and Ari [Weiss, North American CCO] were up for..."
And according to Pam Scheideler, Immortal Awards juror and chief digital officer at Deutsch, what Steve and the team did create was very special indeed. “The Immortals was one of the toughest shows I’ve ever judged,” she says. “The Skittles campaign stood out as it highlighted how a brand benefits when it shows people that it understands the way people connect online. The internet has the capability to make an average kid as famous as an A-list celebrity and at the same time, challenge the entire premise of Super Bowl advertising.”
Her fellow juror Laura Gregory, founder and CEO at Great Guns, adds: "The planning and detail to delight were unlimited, the work that went into bringing this to life was outstanding. It has to be an Immortal."
Obviously the main factor of Exclusive the Rainbow is that it would only be ever shown to one person. An arguable side effect of that could be those involved in production becoming a little complacent in the project - after all, if just one kid from America was going to see it, does it really need to be a particularly well crafted, high-end piece of film?
"The fact that only one person was ever going to see the finished ad actually didn’t make any difference in our process," says Jade Kim, lead 2D artist at The Mill. "We still wanted to produce a high-quality piece of work that had the high standard of any project coming through the building."
Director Steve adds: "It [the exclusivity] became an exciting notion for all of us to make this amazing, full production value, two-minute film and that it absolutely was only going to be shown to this one kid. Going into it we were all unsure whether it would work, but as soon as we found the kid - Marcos Menendez - and met his family, and started having secret meetings to shoot in his house without him knowing, it got crazy exciting… this fuelled us to craft the film as if it were to be shown to millions of viewers."
When quizzed on the most memorable moments of production, Jade offers up a slight hint of the music used for the ad. "The compositing team belting out to the classic 90’s pop number that was the track for the ad (which I can’t reveal) as we worked through the wee hours during home stretch for delivery."
Steve can't quite get over all the secret shooting they were doing with David Schwimmer decked out in so many bold outfits. "I just loved that we were cruising around with David Schwimmer dressed as a bizarre being, in this kid’s neighbourhood and filming with his mum, best friend, in his house, at his favourite store…"
The thing that will stick with Colin, however, is the journey itself and the way in which everyone involved embarked on a journey of unknown and never looked back. "Other than a lot of wigs and mannequin of Marcos’s mom stuffed with Skittles, I think the enduring memory will be of a group of people going on a very strange and very scary journey together," he says. "But all having trust in each other -- clients who trusted in us despite all the evidence, and us trusting in our creative partners to bring this to life. And we all trusted in two things throughout the entire process: that brave creative works better, and people love crazy ideas."
Importantly though, Colin, Steve and Jade - as well as Mars' vice president, US fruity confections, Matt Montei - are incredibly proud of the whole project and the work that they and everyone else involved put into it.
Matt says: "From the start of the program we made it clear that we weren’t going to release the ad after Super Bowl. It was created with one sole viewer in mind, and we stuck to that. A lot of brands might have leaked the ad or released it months later, and the fact that, to this day, only Marcos Menendez has seen this ad makes me proud. We stayed true to the authenticity and absurdity of the idea.”
"I’m proud that it worked," adds Steve. "There were a lot of unknowns going into it, including evolving scripts… I mean I was putting my all into something I could not even show mum… so I’m proud that we actually went all out and made a great film… but you can’t see it."
Advertiser: Mars Wrigley Confectionery
Creative Agency: DDB Chicago
Strategist: Jonathan Palmer
Producer: Tim Allan
Executive Creative Director: Colin Selikow
Chief Creative Officer: John Maxham
Account Executive: Katie Goold
Digital Director: Nico Nieto
Chief Production Officer: Di Jackson
North American Chief Creative Officer: Ari Weiss
Global Account Director: Erin Leahy
Global Brand Lead: Josh Lenze
Global Segment Lead: Eli Velez
VP, Digital Director: Jim Higgins
Community manager: Leandro Martinez
Director of Digital: Azher Ahmed
Global Business Lead: Richard Guest
Group Strategy Director: Josh Drueck
Production Manager: Scott Terry
Senior Producer: Jason Georgen
Media Agency: Starcom
Production Company: MJZ
Executive Producer: Emma Wilcockson
Director: Steve Ayson
DOP: Jody Lee Lipes
Producer: Laurie Boccaccio
2nd Unit Director: Jane Shearer
President: David Zander
Production Designer: Inbal Weinberg
Post Production Company: The Mill
VFX Supervisor: Jade Kim
Senior Producer: Nirad 'Bugs' Russell
PR Agency: Olson Engage
Media Agency: Mediacom
Editorial Company: Work Editorial
PR Agency: Olson Engage
Talent Partner: The Marketing Arm
Social Media Agency: Fanscape