Behind the Super Bowl: Producing the Hottest Commercials on TV
I have to admit I'm not a huge football fan, but I actually look forward to the Super Bowl every year for two reasons: the half-time show and the commercials. Many of the top ads air on Super Bowl Sunday, and I enjoy the humor and creativity showcased in many of the commercials.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Skip Allocco, a veteran creative director and executive producer, about what it was like to produce a top Super Bowl ad. During his tenure with advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather, Allocco produced a Super Bowl ad for American Express that was rated the No. 1 Super Bowl spot for the year and one of TV Guide's top 10 Super Bowl ads ever.
The commercial, titled "Dana and Jon do Miami," featured two famous Not Ready for Prime Time Players -- Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz. The ad parodied Visa commercials. On his trip to the Miami Super Bowl, Jon's "other card" is constantly rejected when he tries to make purchases, but Dana saves the day by using his American Express card.
What was the inspiration for the American Express Super Bowl ad?
The competitor was making overblown claims. They were true, but they left out a lot of pertinent information. So this opened up an avenue to set the record straight -- and poke a little fun at the same time!
What does an agency television commercial producer do?
An agency producer is like a general contractor, but you are "building" a commercial instead of a house. The creative team (writer, art director, and film director) are your architects, the storyboards are your blueprints.
You create the schedule, bid the job out, hire the subcontractors [director, production company, film editor, post production/special effects, music and sound design people], cast the actors, supervise the filming and post production work -- and make sure everyone is paid.
Some producers focus on the business of production; really good producers (and they are scarce these days) focus on and help steer the creative work. My approach as a producer and a creative director was to let everyone do their respective jobs, sit in the passenger seat with one eye on the map/shooting board, and one eye on the road. As long as the bus stayed between the lines I was cool, but as soon as it looked like we were wandering out of our lane, I grabbed the wheel and pulled us back.
Were there any factors that made this commercial difficult to shoot?
As with many shoots, there was not enough time, just enough money, and challenging logistics.
What factors made this project fun?
Working with Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz, and having a client who was willing to "go for it." Dana and Jon are two stars in their own right, but together, you have "critical mass" -- they worked together so much that they could finish each others sentences ... and punchlines. They were never without ideas, and never afraid to put them out there, fearless really. The project was truly an amazing team effort.
Check out Skip's Super Bowl Ad featuring Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz.
See Also: 2011 Super Bowl Ads