Mailchimp and Hone put one of sport’s most weird and wonderful tailgating traditions at the centre of the creative for this new, delightfully off the wall spot which leaves viewers guessing.
This befuddled aftertaste is exactly what the creative brief called for, in keeping with the theme of the brand’s ‘Guess Less, Sell More’ campaign. Embracing this creative strategy, Jeremy Jones, and his creative team at Mailchimp’s in house-agency, Wink, decided to keep the audience guessing, enlisting the help of Matt Mattingly, owner & co-head of production at Hone, and Matt Joyner, executive producer, to help make their idea a reality.
Inspired by the head turning, real-world ceremonies of superfans, the spot - directed by Kris Belman with Division 7 - leaves viewers flummoxed, as they attempt to decipher the meaning behind the mustard-motived mayhem unfolding on screen.
In the last three years, Hone has been embedded with Wink, stepping in at various times, when different roles were called for: agency executive producers, project managers, creative campaign managers, and agency operations consultants. This time around, Hone acted as Wink’s agency executive producer and, together, pushed the limits of the distinctly quirky approach now synonymous with Mailchimp commercials.
Hot off the tails of the TVC’s first official airing, LBB’s April Summers speaks with the team responsible for this undeniably memorable commercial, who reveal how Hone helped bring Mailchimp’s ‘Guess Less, Sell More’ philosophy to life through these colourful and chaotic spots.
LBB> Congratulations on a brilliantly bizarre but undeniably memorable spot! I have to ask, was this idea inspired by real life?
Matt Joyner, executive producer, Hone> The inspiration behind the spot is the man, the myth, the legend that is so prominently featured in the spot: Buffalo Bills’ superfan Ken ‘Pinto Ron’ Johnson.
Jeremy Jones, group creative director, Mailchimp> ‘Pinto Ron’ is known for attending every single Bills game, and for hosting the best tailgate party in all of football, where he cooks all kinds of different food items on the hood of his Pinto and in weird contraptions like filing cabinets, mailboxes, wheel barrels and army helmets. But what he’s really known for is his pre-game ritual of being doused from head to toe in ketchup and mustard. Thousands of people show up for this ceremony and it’s one of American football’s greatest mysteries that keeps people guessing, so we thought it would be perfect to feature in our ‘Guess Less, Sell More’ campaign.
Matt Joyner> Bills’ tailgates are some of the most legendary in all of sports, and Pinto Ron’s are nothing short of spectacular. Our goal here was to recreate that as much as possible, and we saw his weekly ketchup/mustard ceremony as the perfect opportunity to showcase what traditions are all about.
LBB> You must have gotten through a fair few bottles of mustard and ketchup during the making of this ad!?
Matt Joyner> So much mustard. The smell of it still makes me twitch a little. We did go through quite a few bottles, as well as t-shirts for Ron. I’m still in awe of the guy’s stamina.
LBB> Quirky, absurdist humour is firmly embedded in Mailchimp’s brand identity. What is the ultimate goal of this current project and how does humour facilitate this goal?
Jeremy Jones> Our brand is in what could be perceived as a boring category, so we use our expert absurdist humour to breakthrough and leave a lasting impression on the audience. If you think about it, we’re a marketing platform selling marketing software to marketers, so we recognise the fact our ads need to have an element of surprise and memorability, especially when broadcast during a game folks are so in tune with. This is what we were after here with this spot. We really want to resonate with the NFL fan base and speak their language, while also communicating our own, to help raise awareness for our brand and advance marketing tools.
LBB> Let’s talk about the cultural subtext of the ad. Who is this spot speaking to? And why will this depiction of this weird and wonderful game day tradition resonate with this desired audience?
Jeremy Jones> People tune in to football games to watch football, unless it’s the Super Bowl, which is a time when audiences also pay attention to the ads. We wanted to cut through the noise by speaking the language of the fans’ and, knowing fan traditions tend to be pretty crazy, we searched for the most interesting and fun one to feature in our ads. Bills Mafia and the Buffalo Bills fans are some of the most dedicated in the entire league, and they share a lot of our same brand values, so it was a perfect fit.
LBB> How does this spot deliver a new perspective of Mailchimp’s ‘Guess Less, Sell More’ brand message?
Jeremy Jones> This version of ‘Guess Less, Sell More’ is integrated in real-life, compared to our previous spots that featured other things that left you guessing like Owl-Cat-Bats, Dancing Shag Rugs and Sandal-Which Wearing Witches. This one is more grounded in reality, but the ‘Guesswork’ device is just as absurd.
LBB> Despite the silliness of the spot, there are some undeniably cinematic shots. Did you face any major challenges during production? If so, how did you overcome them?
Matt Joyner> We knew going in that shooting in the northeast at the onset of winter had the potential for some weather challenges, so we were keeping an eye on things daily. As the shoot got closer and the possibility of snow became more real, we decided to embrace it, as that’s the kind of authenticity you can’t pass up – the spot truly would not be the same without it.
LBB> How did Hone’s previous experiences - agency and brand-side - serve to inform the production of this commercial?
Matt Joyner> This commercial had many stakeholders beyond our partners at Mailchimp. We had to bring along, and gain approvals, from the NFL, the Buffalo Bills organisation and Pinto Ron. Hone specialises in navigating complex organisations and respects each individual voice. Our experiences make us nimble and capable of understanding all points of view which ultimately results in the best possible creative output.
LBB> How did Hone’s unique model strengthen the production process?
Matt Joyner> Since we can, and do, play on all sides of the proverbial production net - agency and brand side of campaigns, as well as production - we come at projects with a wide breadth of experience and knowledge which helps to ensure a smooth process for all parties and partners. We know how to stay in our lane, but with that comes an understanding of what all parties involved need to ensure a smooth and successful production.
LBB> What does it mean to Hone to partner closely with a global brand like Mailchimp year after year?
Matt Mattingly> We love working with Wink, the in-house team at Mailchimp, and it’s rewarding to see how Hone can compliment their capabilities and provide the support needed to deliver work at this level. Wink’s growth is impressive and I like to think Hone has had an impact in that being possible – in just under two years, we have produced four TVC campaigns with sixty plus unique spots and hundreds of versions for a global market.
LBB> How has Hone supported the continued success of Wink?
Jeremy Jones> Hone is a close partner and considered an extended part of our team. We lean on them for our big, 360 global campaigns as well as counsel throughout the year to help set us all up for success. Their approach leaves a positive impression on the creative process and output.
LBB> Personally, what was your favourite aspect of this project?
Jeremy Jones> I think one of the coolest things about this shoot was getting to spend time with Ken and his crew during a real tailgate, before the shoot, so we could really bring to life the magic and feeling on the small screen. Having it snow during our actual shoot made it that much more believable and special. The Bills are known to play in the cold and terrible conditions, but those conditions really added to the look and feel of our spot, especially as this will be airing during the playoffs!
Matt Joyner> Having such a truly engaged and collaborative team made all the difference on this shoot and that was across the board - brand, director, crew, Pinto Ron - really everyone. It’s such a fun, lighthearted concept so the shoot should be fun for everyone, and this one certainly was.