Oatly's Super Bowl Ad Didn't Get The Reaction They Expected
In the Oatly commercial from the 2021 Super Bowl, Toni Petersson, Oatly's CEO, is in a field of oats in Sweden, playing on a keyboard.
These are the strange song's only lyrics, until Petersson gets to the repetitive chorus, which consists of only three words:
"Wow, wow, no cow."
Unsurprisingly, the final product took only a couple takes to capture, and came in well below the typical cost for a Super Bowl commercial. According to Oatly's chief creative officer, John Schoolcraft, the short filming time and low production value was all part of the plan, telling AdAge,
"It’s definitely not your typical Super Bowl commercial with the celebrity or over production [...] [the commercial] cost a fraction of what the catering budget is for almost every other spot in the Super Bowl."
This allowed Oatly to spend the bulk of its budget on the high-demand air time itself, which comes in at around $5.5 million for a 30-second slot during the big game. And if people are unimpressed with the less-than-dazzling ad? Well, at least they'll be talking about it. According to Schoolcraft, that's all part of the plan.
“You can look at it and say ‘that might be the stupidest use of ad space on the Super Bowl ever.’”
Needless to say, it looks like it may have worked. Many viewers had no idea what to make of the unimpressive commercial, and took to Twitter to express their bewilderment. Axios editor, Dan Primack, wrote,
"Oatly's investors include Oprah, Jay-Z, and Natalie Portman. But instead it went with its singing CEO."
Meanwhile, stand-up comedian, Sam Morril, went so far as to express anger, tweeting,
"Having a hard time enjoying this drive bc I'm still mad about the Oatly commercial."
Oatly's bizarre marketing decision is actually completely on-brand for its CEO. Petersson was responsible for Oatly's cheeky re-branding, which first made the oat milk so popular in Europe -- and used the exact same campaign. As it turns out, Oatly's 2021 Super Bowl commercial originally played in Sweden in 2014. Which means the company knew exactly what it was in for.
In fact, when the same Oatly commercial ran in Sweden, the commercial was banned. Not because Twitter took offense, but because the Swedish cow lobby sued the company for portraying cow's milk as "unhealthy." Petersson didn't mind, though, since sales went up. His only regret was not rolling out the campaign earlier.
Now, the company is trying the same strategy in the U.S. -- and on a massive scale. According to Schoolcraft,
"It's just the right time right now for us to make a bigger statement to the whole national audience."
The negative public reaction was exactly what the company was going for. Hours before its commercial went on air, Oatly was giving away t-shirts professing hate for its Super Bowl ad attempt. On Oatly's website, the product description reads,
"The rules of time and space make it impossible to give you back the 30 seconds you just spent watching our Super Bowl commercial, but at least we can give you this free t-shirt that lets the world know where you stand on our attempt to promote Toni's singing skills to a wider audience."
Its ploy paid off, with the 500 shirts Oatly had in stock all getting claimed in under five minutes. Meanwhile, Oatly's commercial made it onto multiple national news sites, while the company's Instagram account is blowing up. Fans love to hate the song, with one fan requesting for Oatly to release it on Spotify, and another reporting that they've made it their ringtone. Other fans seem to love the company's weird marketing so much that they are desperate to become a part of the Oatly family, with one person writing,
"My husband and I went to your site and looked for jobs we wanted to be part of that guy's company so bad..hah. so great."
Oatly, for its part, is calling the uproar, "a win for the plant-based movement." So, while Oatly t-shirts are currently out of stock, luckily, there's no shortage of commentary about this hilarious ad.
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