Why Skittles Opted for a Broadway Musical Over a Super Bowl Ad
By Caroline Farley, Account Executive
A 30 second Super Bowl commercial spot will cost you upwards of $5 million these days, so in 2019 Skittles ditched the big field and created a more interactive campaign. Mars, the Skittles parent company, joined forces with advertising agency DDB Worldwide to create a one-day-only Broadway scale musical that premiered on Super Bowl Sunday. The performance was not publicly streamed, so only 1,500 people had the chance to experience a musical like nothing else on the Great White Way.
This concept is an indirect ode to industrial musicals, one night only experiences popular in the 1950s and 1960s, where big-name industrial companies produced musical advertisements to reach their market in a new way. They were often satirical and designed to have a catchy score that would keep the audience humming the songs for days after.
The team was open about taking a large risk and knew they would only succeed if they asked Broadway professionals to guide them through the process. The show’s creative team was made up of Broadway and entertainment industry veterans that quickly learned the language of advertising. The show also donated its profits to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a charity that supports healthcare within the New York City theater community.
The plot of the show is about Michael C. Hall’s anxiety upon the realization that participating in a musical advertisement could negatively impact his career. The ensemble played the role of interactive audience members that heckled him for “selling out” and going along with the absurd “Skittles commercial” idea as if they were not paid actors themselves. The show featured songs that included “Advertising Ruins Everything”, “This Might Have Been A Bad Idea” and a finale of “This Was Definitely A Bad Idea.”
So why did Skittles choose to give up a primetime advertising spot and book a theater instead? They knew the risk was significant, but the payoff was much sweeter than a forgettable commercial. Audience members happily paid more than select Hamilton tickets to witness the one-night-only event, which proves that exclusivity combined with the attention-grabbing idea was the key to success for Skittles.
Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical garnered over 2.5 billion earned media impressions which is 25 times more than the number of people that tuned into the 2019 Super Bowl. The campaign was mentioned in over 1,000 articles and newscasts and even received positive reviews from prominent theater critics. While this type of campaign was a success for Skittles, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a viable option for others to do the same. The ironic and self-aware content created a perfect blend of poking at consumer frustration while still marketing the product. But there is always a small chance that the industrial musical model will make a comeback, with Skittles a step ahead.