After a number of national campaigns, SJMC alumnus Luke Behrends (B.A., '04) scored a touchdown in the advertising world when he created Tide's 2013 Superbowl ad, which, post-game, was ranked second by USA Today's Ad Meter. The senior copywriter at New York-based Saatchi & Saatchi, whose clients also include Miller beers, Honey Nut Cheerios and Trident Gum, tells us about creating work in the national spotlight and what keeps him creative.
First off, tell us about the Tide commercial.
We wanted to be topical. The entire project -- overseen by 1998 SJMC alumna Susan Young, creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi -- was a moving target. We knew about this ad before the NFL season even started, so we worked throughout the season on ideas. We didn't start to nail things down until it got to the playoffs. When it got down to the last four teams, it was decision time. We shot everything multiple ways with different teams and started filming two weeks before the game. It was crazy, stressful and tiring but thrilling and invigorating. And at the last second, the client moved it from a 30-second commercial to 60 seconds. It threw the best sort of wrench into things. By the time we finished the ad, the Superbowl was 48 hours away.
The commercial begins with a man whose salsa stain resembles San Fransisco 49ers football legend Joe Montana. The man becomes an instant celebrity and fans make the pilgrimage to see the stain until his wife, a Baltimore Ravens fan, washes the jersey. It all became very serendipitous, because we needed a tight score for the ad to work -- with the blackout and the comeback of the 49ers, it was perfect.
What was it like the first time you saw your work on a national level?
My first big campaign was for Nike baseball during the All Star Game in New York City. It was strictly billboard and out-of-home ads and we blanketed the entire city with this campaign, which was a love letter to baseball in the city and the fans. It felt very grand and iconic. To see it all over the place just walking down the street in New York City was pretty wild.
How did you know advertising was for you?
In high school I was on the newspaper, and I knew I wanted to write and be creative. One day, our adviser said he had been at an advertising agency once and they had a room with arcade games. From that day on, I told people I wanted to be in advertising. But it wasn't until junior year in SJMC when I took a strategic thinking and copywriting class with Sarah Shaw that I found out about copywriting as a career. When I realized I could write and be in advertising, everything seemed to fit together.
What's your tactic for combining creativity with strategy?
There are strategists who do the research and give you insights as to the path forward and what positioning could be best for the brand. As long as you stay true to the strategy, you can really do anything creatively. If you know the box you're playing in, you can make the walls as big as you want. You don't have to be trapped in it.
What experience at SJMC was most helpful to you?
I loved the National Student Advertising Competition. You're working with like-minded people with the same goals. It's the closest to the real life advertising world as you can get while still in school. -Sarah Howard