Meet the Kiwis who wrote the Cheetos Super Bowl ad starring Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher and Shaggy

Two creative Kiwis are behind the script for an A-list Super Bowl ad that will be seen by millions around the world.

The Cheetos snacks ad, starring Hollywood couple Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher alongside musician Shaggy, will air during Monday’s broadcast of the NFL’s showcase game, played on Sunday in the United States.

Advertising space for the American football season finale is considered the highest-profile and most expensive in the world.

“It’s the biggest ad you can possibly make and there’s a huge amount of investment and a lot of reputations on the line,” Kiwi art director Thomas Gledhill told the Weekend Herald.

Gledhill and fellow New Zealander and copywriter Lennie Galloway, who work for San Francisco-based agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, were one of several teams tasked with writing a script that played on Cheetos’ mischievous brand.

Being asked to come up with a funny ad that will be judged by millions of people was daunting and exciting, Galloway said.

“Tom and I have never done something at this scale. It’s hard to stay calm and not get too overwhelmed by the task in front of you.”

Their idea that ultimately won was a play on the lyrics of Shaggy’s hit song It Wasn’t Me.

Although the tone of the original song from 2000 was risque, Gledhill explained they could adapt it to tell the story of people pinching their partner’s food before denying the theft – despite whatever evidential crumbs are left behind.

“It helps that Cheetos are this irresistible snack,” he said. “We had to create something that said these Cheetos were steal-worthy.”

Frito-Lay, the company that owns Cheetos, had also done a study that found in about 50 per cent of relationships one partner was guilty of stealing the other’s snacks.

“My marriage definitely helped inspire it,” Galloway joked.

When creating an ad for the Super Bowl, connecting with pop culture was critical, Galloway said.

“You are talking to literally everybody – the target audience is the general population.

“We were really lucky that Ashton and Mila loved it, Shaggy loved it – because it all really relies on having these key pieces.”

Of waiting to hear if the Grammy-winning singer was on board with the idea, Gledhill said: “It’s really up to the artist at the end of the day, so it’s kind of holding your breath.”

Like almost all businesses last year,Goodby, Silverstein & Partners was forced by Covid-19 to plan, manage and produce the project via Zoom.

“The whole process has been from home,” said Galloway, who worked from her San Francisco home.

“As a creative partnership you feed off each other’s facial reactions and unspoken cues about what each other thinks. It was a different way of concepting, just hearing silence on the other end of the phone and trying to read into it if it’s them thinking or hating what you’re saying,” she laughed.

The creative pair also wanted to “give people a distraction” from the global pandemic with something to smile at.

Kutcher told marketing and media magazine Ad Age: “When I saw this Cheetos ad, it was like the medicine that I needed given the heaviness of this entire year and it just made me laugh.”

Gledhill, who is now back in New Zealand, said it was amazing that the large team involved pulled off the 10-month project remotely.

“I think we’re going to go to sleep for a month afterwards,” Galloway said of the mammoth effort.

The Cheetos ad was released on YouTube and Facebook this week and has already tallied millions of views.

“Every single detail is examined and tested but you don’t really know until you put it out there if people are going to like it,” Gledhill said.

A brief history of Super Bowl ads

With a global audience of more than 150 million people the cost of a few seconds of air time during a Super Bowl broadcast isn’t cheap.

A 30-second ad during this year’s game is estimated to be US$5.5 million ($7.7m), which has risen from the comparatively cheap US$40,000-odd during the first Super Bowl in 1967.

The reach and big money attracts the world’s largest and most recognisable companies and results in some of the advertising world’s most memorable commercials.

Some of the more famous ones include Pepsi’s deliverymen ad in 1995, McDonald’s hiring two the greatest basketball players, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, to play each other for a Big Mac in 1993, and Amazon’s 2018 ad titled Did Alexa Lose Her Voice? starring a host of celebrities.
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