John Malkovich is making two appearances in Super Bowl 51 thanks to an ad campaign for Squarespace that riffs on his fame, Being John Malkovich — and the importance of securing domain names for your business, which (as a fashion designer when he’s not acting) he has a genuine interest in.
The Internet domain name provider has created a cluster of similar companies by deciding to advertise on Super Bowl Sunday along with Wix and GoDaddy, but Squarespace deals directly with one of the biggest frustrations of would-be online entrepreneurs: Someone else camping out on your desired domain name, especially if it’s your name. Yes, cyberquatting can happen even to a big-time actor such as Malkovich.
The storyline: Malkovich has launched his own fashion line (true) and wants to obtain JohnMalkovich.com as the URL for his website—but discovers someone else has snapped up that domain name, and he’s not happy about it. So there’s a pre-game 60-second ad in which Malkovich “discovers” the domain name problem, and in the 30-second Super Bowl ad the actor is seen trying to deal with his adversary for the web address.
brandchannel asked David Lee (right), chief creative officer of Squarespace, about the campaign:
bc: Why does the Super Bowl continue to be relevant?
Lee: There are very few moments like the Super Bowl — it’s an event that transcends sports and has become an integral moment in pop culture. The combination of advertising, entertainment and competition all come together to create a unique moment for brands to tell their story on the biggest podium.
bc: This campaign is so perfectly tied to John Malkovich’s persona and brand; could you have done it without him?
Lee: Certainly not. John is one of the most iconic actors in the world, and for good reason. He can obviously play any role, but the most compelling thing about this campaign was that he had the opportunity to play himself. While we had a script for John to read, he ended up using it more as a blueprint and ultimately made the dialogue his own.
The final in-game spot was actually one of the very first takes and John improvised the entire scene. We’ve continued to be blown away by what an amazingly talented actor and designer John is.
bc: Wix, of course, is in the Super Bowl too; how are you differentiating your website-building offering and value?
Lee: We’re aware that several of our competitors are also in the Super Bowl, but at the end of the day, we’re trying to create the best product and do our best work, and that happens independently of what our competitors are doing. We believe that we have something unique that is going to cut through the noise and stand out. As such, we’re not so concerned with what other companies are doing around us.
bc: It’s a highly politicized year, and any overt political commentary in Super Bowl ads has been discouraged this year. What do you think of brands taking a stance on politics in general?
Lee: We’re always looking at topical things that are happening in the world. As creatives, it’s part of our job to stay aware of and anticipate trends. On our end, this year’s Super Bowl creative was actually produced in the summer, and as such, politics didn’t play a very big part. However, if our 30 seconds during the big game puts a smile on your face in tumultuous times, we couldn’t be happier.
bc: How will you measure success from this—and keep the momentum going beyond Super Bowl?
Lee: Simply put, we wouldn’t do a Super Bowl ad if it didn’t work. We’ve always appreciated this event as an opportunity to connect with a massive audience, and it’s also a clarifying moment for Squarespace to rally around an idea that will set the tone for the rest of the year. Ultimately, the goal is to get people talking about your brand and to use that buzz to create momentum for your customers and company.