When it comes to advertising, no event in the calendar gets more attention than the Super Bowl. With brands from across the USA looking to get involved with endless pre-game hype and enormous audience engagement, companies strive for perfection across the board - whether that comes through big-name celebrity appearances or high-end cinematic showstoppers.
For music and sound company New Math, however, it was all about creating the perfect aural accompaniments to the much-discussed campaigns. Having previously worked on iconic Super Bowl spots including Walmart’s ‘Famous Visitors’ and Stella Artois’ ‘Change Up The Usual’, the team set their sights on two more campaigns for the big game: Uber Eats’ ‘Eat Local’ and Oikos’ ‘Ugly Face’.
Here, New Math partner and creative director David Wittman discusses how they brought the noise for the two Super Bowl spots, exploring the impact of the pandemic on the creative process, personal highlights, and what it was like to work with some local-access legends.
Q > What were the briefs from the brands and creatives? What were your initial responses / thoughts?
David Wittman > The two spots actually had quite different asks from a music-partnership perspective. Oikos wanted us to function essentially as a conduit to help craft music from an existing artist for their spot, while staying as close to the original recording as possible. We worked with the artist (MiztaCEO and his producer Big Dee) to produce new vocal takes, re-arrangements and mixes. We helped craft a piece of music that at once maintained the integrity of the artist's original work, fit seamlessly with their evolving edit and was on-brand for Oikos.
Uber Eats, on the other hand, was a bit more of a catch-all music-partner engagement. Everything from replaying their iconic Wayne's World intro/exit theme to approximating the nuance of the sound of ‘coming back from a commercial break.’ We were available to create original scores or musical soundscapes for any and all gags, moments, etc. across the different executions in this multi-tiered effort - including supervising a two-hour credit roll that will be live on YouTube.
Q > What’s the timeframe like working on Super Bowl projects like these? And has that timeframe been altered this year due to the pandemic?
David > Generally speaking the work is pretty seamless but schedules are always tight. We are able to go back and forth via Zoom with notes and get work done that everyone is happy with but, as I'm sure everyone around the industry and beyond is feeling, the power of getting into a room, the synergy, the FUN of sitting together and tweaking a mix, going through takes, fussing with edits is something we miss dearly. Spending hours in the studio, the hang, bringing in talent, burritos, sushi, what have you... we can't wait to get back to doing that stuff too!
Q > Uber Eats seems like quite a multifaceted challenge when it comes to music and sound. You’ve got the live audience noise alongside the spoof of glamorous slow-mo ads. How did you handle these various demands?
David > Part of what we’re set up for is being able to turn on a dime. All of our writers have such remarkable abilities to go from 808-laden bass mixes to mega-authentic 70s muzak soundscapes to traditional sound design - it’s part of what makes our skill set unique.
Q > What was it like working on a spot with such iconic characters and an already-established visual / aural style?
David > All of those of us who are old enough to remember these sketches when they came out were blown away. Between set design and creative direction and the way Wayne and Garth completely own the roles so many decades later... it was just super cool. Probably exactly the way it looks to all the viewers!
Q > What were the trickiest components for both spots? How did you work to overcome them?
David > For Oikos I think the idea of all getting in the same room was something we would have loved to do. Normally we’d fly the rappers up from Memphis, get the creative team together in the studio and stretch out in some sessions. The process was a lot of late night recordings and daytime editing.
For Uber Eats, the hoop jumping was a bit more on the production side of the job just because shooting in the pandemic was so tricky. But as far as music and sound, we are pretty well set up to turn things around and the team was great to work with. The two hour YouTube music supervision job was an interesting twist, simply because of the length.
Q > You’ve worked on previous Super Bowl spots such as Stella Artois’ ‘Change Up The Usual’, Olay’s ‘Killer Skin’, and Walmart’s ‘Famous Visitors’. What have you learned from these previous outings that you’ve taken forward to 2021’s spots?
David > It's always exciting to do this work because everyone brings their A-game and wants to make the spots great. In particular, Stella called on us to recreate and record iconic songs - our experience there really lent itself to part of the Uber Eats efforts. Walmart was similar in terms of a catch-all music-in-10-places type ask. We also took licensed music and made it work for the cut in concert with the original score, along with an incredible amount of foley and sound design. The Olay spot called for a perfect balance of music and sound design to create the mood and drive the action, these tools of the trade are called on in virtually everything we do!
Q > What were your highlights from both projects this year?
David > In a general sense it’s just the high level of creativity from all sides, from the agency, directors, editors, everyone. The bar is always high, the spots are funny, well produced. We’re excited to be involved in great work, period. Specifically this year the talent stood out, from iconic Mike Myers and Dana Carvey that were part of the fabric of our youth, to working with an up and coming emcee out of Memphis who’s about to enjoy what will undoubtedly be the biggest stage of his career to date, it's all fun. We love what we do!