Super Bowl ads are more often than not a visual experience. But Michelob Ultra is deploying a trendy sound phenomenon in its ad as it seeks attention for its Pure Gold line extension.
The brew, introduced last year, is marketed as containing organic grains. The spot, released today, features actress Zoe Kravitz (daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet) in a lush Hawaiian scene. She sits at a desk pouring the brew while accentuating every sound, clinking the bottle with her fingernails and twisting the cap open.
The ad, by FCB Chicago, makes use of a sensory phenomenon known as autonomous sensory meridian response, commonly called ASMR, in which people experience a calming or tingling sensation in response to certain sounds like whispering and finger tapping. The popularity of the phenomenon has risen in recent years, giving rise to millions of YouTube videos. Marketers began seizing on ASMR as far back as 2015, when BBDO Beijing created two videos for Mars brand Dove chocolate, including one showing a woman crinkling a Dove chocolate wrapper, unwrapping it and popping a piece into her mouth. KFC's Colonel Sanders character mocked the trend in this 2016 video.
Ultra's ad brings ASMR to probably its biggest mainstream stage ever with a Super Bowl ad that will be seen by upwards of 100 million people—many of them gathered around TVs at cacophonous viewing parties. "My hope is that it feels strange, that in this sea of loudness and noise, that there is this disruptive quiet," says Azania Andrews, VP for Michelob Ultra, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. The ad will run as a 45-second spot in the game.
For the uninitiated, the fact that Kravitz is sitting behind a desk amid waterfalls and green mountains might seem odd. But as Andrews explains, "If you watch ASMR-style videos [people] are often seated at tables with dual microphones. So it was just meant to be a reflection of what people who know ASMR might be familiar with."
Ultra Pure Gold has 85 calories, 10 less than regular Ultra. It checks in at a low 3.8 percent alcohol-by-volume, compared with regular Ultra's 4.2 percent. Regular Ultra has long targeted fitness enthusiasts. The Pure Gold extension is aimed at bringing more people into the fold who are interested in general wellness. That is another reason the brand went with ASMR, which is often used for meditation of relaxation, Andrews says.
Regular Ultra is also getting a Super Bowl ad. The spot, also by FCB Chicago, was released last week.