Later viewers may have mistaken Intuit’s contest handing GoldieBlox a free spot in Super Bowl XLVIII as the first giveaway of the most expensive TV time in the world (“Come on Feel the Toyz,” 2014, to be followed by "Storm's a-Brewin'" for Death Wish Coffee in 2016). But Mail Boxes Etc. got there long before Intuit.
After a 1996 debut for the chain of business service centers featuring the wide-ranging Oscar Mayer Wienermobile ("Top Dog") and a 1997 spot about an outdoor adventure service ("Kodiak"), San Diego-based Mail Boxes Etc. kicked off its See Your Small Business on the Super Bowl contest for the 1998 game.
“In a national contest entered by 4,000 small business owners, MBE presented a commercial to small business looking to become a big business,” said Rich Badami, who was creative director at the agency behind Mail Boxes Etc.’s Super Bowl campaigns, Kenneth C. Smith Advertising. “The spot was intentionally produced to look homemade by the winners, who had invented a hand pump to perfectly inflate sports balls.”
After the spot aired, complete with Super Bowl-atypical toll-free number, Pocket Pump orders grew to more than 6,000 a day from 10, Silicon Valley Business Journal reported that fall. “And first quarter sales increased 150 percent over the entire, previous fiscal year,” the Journal said.
Ad Age reviewer Bob Garfield was sold. “They gave their spot to a customer -- a tiny company that makes a basketball-inflating pocket pump,” he wrote. “ This low-production-budget commercial within a commercial not only taps vicarious excitement for the lucky entrepreneurs, it underscores MBE's dedication to small business. The best idea on the Super Bowl.”
Mail Boxes Etc. would repeat the contest in 1999 ("Jeremy's MicroBatch Ice Creams").
Director: Arnie Lerner. Production company: Vihlene & Associates.
Mail Boxes Etc. marketing director: Bill Lange.
Creative Director: Rich Badami.
BRAND: Mail Boxes Etc.
AGENCY: Kenneth C. Smith Advertising