THIS SUPER BOWL Sunday, as football fans gather for pre-game festivities, musical theater enthusiasts will have their own spectacle to appreciate: a one-time-only performance at famed downtown NYC theater Joe’s Pub, starring actor and Broadway star Dexter’s Michael C. Hall. The production, written by Pulitzer-finalist playwright Will Eno, is an anti-consumerist allegory filled with songs like “Advertising Ruins Everything,” which bemoans contemporary evils like spam and targeted Instagram ads. As strange as this all sounds, though, it gets weirder. The play? It’s called Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical.
That’s right. Skittles’ 2019 Super Bowl commercial is not only not during the Super Bowl, it’s not televised at all. It’s not even an ad: It’s a live musical skewering its own industry. But it’s very much in keeping with recent shifts in the marketing world. Running an ad during the Super Bowl used to be the pinnacle of American marketing prestige, but in an age when Super Bowl viewership is slipping and even avid watchers are splitting their attention between the game and the conversation about the game on social media, appealing to the internet has become more important than crafting a sizzling 30-second TV spot. And brands know that. Which is why, every year, Super Bowl “commercials” look less like traditional advertisements and more like made-to-be-memed viral campaigns that do best and live longest on the web.
Arguably, it started six years ago, when a power outage plunged the Super Bowl into darkness, and Oreo seized the moment.