Mars candy brand Skittles, known for subverting the norms of advertising with its twisted confectionary ads and daring Super Bowl ideas, pulled its most brazen move to date when it decided to debut a Broadway show on Big Game Sunday—an idea that followed the previous year’s Super Bowl spot that only one person was allowed to see.
At the Cannes Lions Festival, Ad Age sat down with Mars Global CMO of Chocolate Rankin Carroll and DDB Chicago Executive Creative Director Colin Selikow to talk about the strategy—as well as the cojones it takes to make such a decision (one that yielded more candy sales)—and a potential honor in the Titanium Lion category.
“We had the motivation to beat the year before,” Carroll explains of the project. “That was the brief. Making an ad for one person is a pretty successful venture for us, pretty well-recognized here in Cannes, so what was it going to take to beat that?”
In terms of signing off on such an audacious idea, he says that came down to trust, among all parties involved. “Can I look you in the eye, and can you tell me you believe you can do this?” Carroll explains.“We just trusted each other. It sounds trite, but I trusted them—Guys, we’re gonna do this. Don’t screw up.”
Then, it was about bringing the right experts to realize the idea. The teams connected with production company Smuggler, which had proven its Broadway chops on shows like “Once,” and then more talents rolled in after that, from lead actor Michael C. Hall to playwright Will Eno. “They had the expertise, and once we had the right creative team together things started to fall into place, that helps calm you down,” Carrol says.
With real pros on board, however, that’s what raised the stakes, Carroll said. “You have to work to make it great, so it comes up to their standard ... and because it was taken seriously by Broadway, that had another impact in terms of creating media, talk and spin and having critics from The New York Times and Washington Post come and review it.”
“Craft matters in terms of authenticity,” Selikow adds. “I think there was always a little bit of anxiety around [the fact that] we’re entering a world where advertising doesn’t really belong. We were very conscious about if we were getting into this world, you really have to be true to Broadway. It has to be a standalone, amazing piece of content… That’s something that came up a lot.”