Yahoo Is Playing The Super Bowl With A Second-Screen Digital Sidecar In ‘Squares Pick’em’

If you’ve walked by the water cooler at work this week, you’ve most likely engaged with Pedro from IT on whether or not another Tom Brady Super Bowl victory will further cement his legacy as the greatest NFL player ever. Or if Matt Ryan’s juggernaut Falcons offense can shine under the national spotlight. Or if eating too much seven-layer bean dip is probable cause to call off work on Monday.

And above the water cooler, you’ve likely seen a canvas of squares affixed with a Sharpie where colleagues take turns scribbling their names next to numbers, channeling their inner Nostradamus and attempting to predict the score of the game at the end of each quarter.


Playing “Squares” on Super Bowl Sunday is perhaps the second-most popular game-day pastime right next to consuming food and drink to the brink of cardiac arrest.

This year “Squares” is being re-introduced with a digital twist because Yahoo’s partnership with Pizza Hut to launch Squares Pick’em, the first digital game of its kind on Yahoo Sports. 

Sports fans can sign up for the new Squares Pick’em game and fill out their grids through the Yahoo Fantasy app and desktop experience. After signing up, users can invite friends to pick Pizza Hut-themed boxes on a 10-by-10 grid. A chat feature supports the game, giving users a chance to interact with each other. Similar to Yahoo Fantasy Football, commissioners in Squares Pick’em can set up private leagues and establish settings.

Pizza Hut is branching out to digital on the biggest day of the year for fans, brands and marketers alike; it’s a recipe for a strong multi-channel campaign for companies who want a slice of the audience pie. The sponsored fantasy sports game puts the brand, which sells over two million pizzas and accumulates 70 percent of online orders through mobile devices on Super Bowl Sunday, in front of a highly engaged audience. Pizza Hut sold $12 million worth of pizza through digital channels for the game last year. They will also feature a pre-game ad starring Star Trek actor George Takei. Pizza Hut has also sponsored ESPN fantasy football for several years and has introduced packaging innovation that was a ploy for football fans.

Kathy Kayse, vice president of Yahoo’s sales strategy and solutions, joined [a]listdaily to talk about how digital engagement is as much a part of the experience as the game itself.

Why is it important to give fans a second-screen experience during the Super Bowl? Why do you think activations like this will work?

It’s clear that the sports viewing experience has changed, and fans are increasingly looking for new ways to stay engaged with and around the game online—especially when it comes to such a major sporting event. Yahoo has a long history in fantasy sports, a massive audience of sports fans, and a unique take on this ‘game within the game.’ Squares Pick’em is a fun, interactive game that is meant to enhance the viewing experience with friends, family and colleagues.

Why was Pizza Hut the best partner for this promotion?

We’re excited to partner with Pizza Hut this year and create a fun way for the brand to connect with passionate sports fans and potential customers on Yahoo. It’s a way for Pizza Hut to increase engagement with fans and be part of the conversation in the lead-up to the game. Ultimately, we’re offering this new game during the most watched sporting event of the year, and the busiest day of the year for Pizza Hut. Now fans can enjoy Pizza Hut pizza and play Squares Pick’em while they watch.

Kathy Kayse, vice president of Yahoo’s sales strategy and solutions
Kathy Kayse, vice president of Yahoo’s sales strategy and solutions

Why do you think chain restaurants are going the route of gaming to reach consumers?

Last year, Pizza Hut set a digital sales record during the big game when fans headed to its digital ordering options. Digital gaming experiences like Squares Pick’em can be a really effective way to not only engage with but create meaningful connections with consumers where they’re spending time, whether on desktop or mobile.

How will you execute the display, search and email advertising marketing ahead of the game to drive sign-ups for the Squares Pick’em game on Yahoo Sports?

Yahoo offers a wide range of advertising opportunities across its properties and, for this particular campaign, Pizza Hut will be featured in display, search and email ads that will help drive sign-ups for Squares Pick’em on Yahoo Sports. We will also promote the new game on Yahoo through our blogs Shutdown Corner, RotoArcade and additional NFL editorial.

How does this game tie into Yahoo’s overall fantasy sports strategy?

We have an incredibly passionate audience that comes back to play Yahoo Fantasy Sports year after year. Yahoo Fantasy Sports has tens of millions of registered users across all of its games and they spend over 30 billion minutes playing fantasy sports every year on our site. We’re focused on bringing these sports fans new ways to enjoy the game day experience and that’s where Squares Pick’em comes in.

How are digital and second-screen experiences changing the way sports are consumed?

Watching sports is now a true multi-screen experience. Fans are turning to online and mobile content before, during and after the game to look for news, highlights, gaming and more. For the big game, digital engagement is just as much a part of the viewing experience as the game itself.

How will you measure the success of Squares Pick’em to perhaps bring a second installment next year?

This is a brand-new game on Yahoo Fantasy Sports this year, so we’ll look at a number of different aspects from user engagement and sign ups to overall user feedback because ultimately we want to create a gaming experience that our users really enjoy playing.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan


Should Brands Start Taking A Stand?

While it’s nothing new for brands to take advantage of current events, the turbulent US political climate has companies making their views known like never before. Is appealing to one group of consumers at the risk of losing another worth it? This is the world we live in now that Donald Trump is President of the United States.

It is said that religion and politics should be avoided in polite conversation—usually good advice for business, too—but in making any stand (for, against or remaining silent), brands run the risk of seemingly benefiting from public unrest or alienating a large portion of consumers. Calls for boycott have been made, it seems, no matter what a brand says lately. Outrage ensued after Kellogg’s dropped its ads from conservative website Breitbart while some two-hundred thousand have already deleted their Uber apps after the company’s CEO joined Trump’s business advisory council—which he has since left.

There are times when a brand feels it’s necessary to assure its customers about its stance on political views, but it always comes with a risk. The “conversation” (a polite term for what really happens on social media) regarding immigration and refugees has continued with calls to boycott Starbucks, retailers that carry Ivanka Trump fashions and surprisingly, both left and right sides of the political spectrum are booing Amazon at the moment. Regardless of risk vs. reward, speaking out is certainly being thought of as a trend this year.

Sometimes, brands adopt a parody of the situation to lighten the mood. Such is the case with a new ad campaign for Jack in the Box, in which Jack—the restaurant’s mascot—has been “hacked” by a group called Jackileaks. The group is now exposing embarrassing emails, doodles and more, all with a hamburger-theme online.

Do boycotts work? It depends on who you talk to, but it’s important to note that the largest spending generation is guided largely by emotional decisions.

Millennials, particularly multicultural ones, are influential and they know it. According to a study by Buzz Marketing Group, 78 percent of those surveyed feel that they have power as a consumer to influence big brands. If a brand agrees with those same millennials on a social issue, even better—83 percent like it when brands make a public stand for or against issues they believe in.

ESL Partners With Former Fox TV Exec; Activision Blizzard Launches Consumer Products Division

From eSports to consumer products and social media, here are some of the biggest job moves from the past week.

ESports producer, ESL has partnered with former Fox TV exec, David Hill—who launched Fox Sports in the US—to give its video game competitions more television-style production values.

Activision Blizzard opened a new consumer products division with former Mattel and Disney exec, Tim Kilpin as the group’s CEO. The company, which publishes the Call of Duty franchise and Overwatch, said in a statement that the new division is a “strategic pillar” in its expansion of the platforms. Other pillars include interactive content, film and television, competitive gaming and mobile.

Jim Norton, the chief business officer and president of revenue at Condé Nast, was elected chairman of the board of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Additionally, Scott Schiller, executive vice president-general manager of marketing, advertising sales and client partnerships at NBCUniversal, was elected vice chairman.

Facebook has hired Tamara Hrivnak to lead its global music strategy and business development. Hrivnak is leaving her position at director of music partnerships at YouTube and Google Play to join Facebook.

After over a year without a CEO, the message and chat company, Viber announced that Djamel Agaoua will be stepping into the role. He will help to “accelerate development of innovative new features and [grow] the platform’s global user base,” according to a company statement.

Abercrombie & Fitch announced the appointment of Will A. Smith as Chief Marketing Officer. Smith will be responsible for all brand, creative and digital marketing for the company.

Panasonic Corporation of North America made a number of management changes this week, starting with naming Hideo Nakano as CEO of Panasonic Avionics, the supplier of inflight entertainment and communication systems. Additionally, Mark Jennings will serve as COO and Seigo Tada as CFO.

Redbox has named Ash Eldifrawi as its chief marketing and customer experience officer.  Eldifrawi was most recently the chief commercial officer at Gogo.

Two Remedy Entertainment (Quantum Break; Alan Wake) veterans, Kari Koivistoinen and Kari Huttunen have founded their own studio based out of Helsinki, Finland. The studio, called 3rd Eye Studios, will specialize in VR games and its first project is an anthology series of games inspired by The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror.

Take-Two Interactive has taken a major step into mobile game development with the acquisition of Social Point, a publisher based out of Barcelona. Social point was purchased for $250 million, with additional earn-outs of up to $25.9 million.

ZeniMax, parent company of Bethesda Softworks (Fallout 4; The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) and id Software (Doom) has acquired the Texas-based mobile and console game company, Escalation Studios. Escalation will work to develop games across all platforms, including VR.

Gaming technology company, Razer announced that it has acquired the majority of the assets of Nextbit Systems Inc. for an undisclosed price. Nextbit is best known for Robin, an Android-based mobile phone that seamlessly merges cloud and onboard storage.

Honorable mention: Masaya Nakamura, the founder of Namco, who is credited as “the father of Pac-Man” passed away at age 91. Namco made huge contributions to the video game scene in the ‘70s and ‘80s with the release of classics such as Galaxian, Galaga, Pole Position, Xevious and Pac-Man, which helped shape the industry in Japan. In 2007, the Japanese government awarded Nakamura with the Order of the Rising Sun for his contributions to a now thriving industry.

Have a new hire tip? Let us know at


‘World Of Tanks’ Invades Super Bowl LI With Two TV Spots

The Super Bowl has become home to several big free-to-play video game franchises in recent years, and Wargaming is taking the very expensive plunge into the Big Game. The publisher will promote World of Tanks through two different 15-second spots that will air during the fourth quarter of this Sunday’s match-up between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

Fox has been charging companies between $5 million and $5.5 million for 30-second ads this year according to Variety, although Wargaming did not reveal the price it paid for these spots. Last year’s game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers attracted 114 million Americans and an even larger global audience. Furthermore, a recent survey by Prosper Insights and Analytics, found that 17.7 percent of adults find that commercials are the most important part of the broadcast.

Erik Whiteford, director of marketing at Wargaming, told [a]listdaily that they decided to focus on the Super Bowl to expand the presence of the brand, which is available on all viable platforms.

“The Super Bowl provides an incredible vehicle to reach a huge audience before, during and after the game,” Whiteford said. “It felt like the right time, as the products are in great shape for 2017 with new services and features coming throughout this year. We want to expand our awareness and reach into another level of consumer in North America. Although there’s a global impact with the Super Bowl, this campaign is being driven by the North American market.”

Wargaming will release some of the commercials early throughout the weekend. All four commercials focus on humor and make real tanks the celebrity. Only two will air during the Big Game. While humor is a driving force for Super Bowl commercial discussion, previous free-to-play games such as Supercell’s Clash of Clans have turned to Hollywood celebrities like Liam Neeson to promote their games.

“For us, the celebrities are the tanks,” Whiteford said. “When you see a tank you’re immediately impressed with the magnitude they carry. It’s different from a Hollywood celebrity, but we feel tanks will make a memorable mark on people watching commercials during the game.”

Whiteford said the fact that past free-to-play games have had success on Super Sunday gave the company confidence in making this marketing investment. The four spots aren’t focusing on video game graphics or poly counts, but are parodies of pop culture like The Real Housewives TV shows—only with a tank crashing the party. Whiteford said the goal was to make these spots entertaining so they resonate with viewers whether they’re gamers or not.

Many recent Super Bowls have come down to the wire, but by gambling on fourth quarter slots there’s also the potential for a blowout game.

“We’re not scared of the fourth quarter,” Whiteford said. “People plan their whole day around the Super Bowl. If the game isn’t close, the ads become a bigger part of the overall entertainment composition. We think audience will be there even if it’s a blowout. Plus, if the Patriots win, everyone will want to see Goodell hand the trophy to Brady, so that’s a nice insurance policy.”

Whiteford said that by being part of the Super Bowl, Wargaming will receive a lot of downstream activity.

“A lot of exposure comes from pre-game and post-game activities,” Whiteford said. “We’re confident our investment will pay out with the amount of eyeballs viewing the spots based on our investment. If the game is nail-biter everyone will be paying close attention. And being in the fourth quarter also puts us in a better position for people to remember the spots at the end of the game.”

Wargaming will also use all four spots post-Super Bowl across different mechanisms. Whiteford said the idea with the 15-second spots is they can put together short compelling stories perfect for sharing.

“That’s a real strength of the 15-second format,” Whiteford said. “People want to share things that are funny and speak with their friends about them. People have shorter attention spans today.”

Whiteford said this is the kickoff of the World of Tanks campaign, which will roll out throughout the year as new features are revealed for the mobile, PC and console platforms. The game has close to 150 million registered players across all platforms today globally.

The World of Tanks demographic varies by platform, with the PC version skewing older and the mobile version attracting a younger audience, while the console versions are in the middle. “The Super Bowl makes sense because we have product that covers all of those age demographics that the game reaches,” said Whiteford.

Expert Advice For Non-Endemic Brands Looking Into ESports Sponsorship

As eSports continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, rivaling some traditional sports, more non-endemic brands are getting on board to speak to the hard-to-reach millennial audience. Whether it’s Coca-Cola and Gillette sponsoring events and players, or current and former members of the NBA and NFL purchasing eSports teams, there’s no doubt that non-endemic brands are finding different ways to enter the space.

But what should brands keep in mind as they look to get into eSports? [a]listdaily asked a group of industry insiders about what advice they have for brands as they get into the space.

The first ELeague hosted its first CS:GO Major this past weekend on January 27-29, with the sold out Major Grand Final taking place in the historic Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. According to a press release, the ELeague Major Grand Final was the first event in the history of Twitch to surpass one million concurrent viewers. That demonstrates the reach of Turner’s eSports endeavor, which broadcasts tournaments on TBS, and has fast become known for bringing non-endemic sponsors into the space.

“We’ve had a great experience with non-endemic brands entering the eSports space through ELeague,” said Christina Alejandre, general manager of ELeague and VP of eSports at Turner Sports. “Ultimately, it’s important to be authentic to the community. This is an incredibly passionate fan base and the brands that have excelled have created compelling content that resonates and sparks engagement with our audience. In short: if you embrace the eSports audience, they will embrace you right back.”

HyperX, a high-end PC gaming accessory and technology company, is a major ELeague sponsor and had a presence at the CS:GO Major. We asked Daniel Kelley, director of corporate marketing at HyperX, if he had any advice for brands that are considering eSports integration.

“My biggest words of advice would be to take the time to understand the scene,” said Kelley. “Don’t just jump in with both feet because you can see that there’s a very vibrant audience there that might fit your demographic of what you’re trying to do to sell your products or services. There’s definitely an understanding that needs to take place if you want to come into the scene and community—if you want to take part, stand for something, and get integrated in a way that I think most marketers and brands want to be. It’s a very unique space that takes pride in its uniqueness. There’s a language that’s spoken, there are ways that content is consumed, and there are events that are a little bit different from the norm.”

Kelley continued by saying, “I think that taking the time to understand it and finding the best way to appreciate it and then play your part as a brand or product in the space would be the best first approach. There’s plenty of growth that I’m sure is attractive, and there will be more brands. Looking at the last 12 months, the number of non-endemics jumping into the space is pretty mind-blowing. It’s only going to continue to grow.”

Vasos Roberts, vice president of sales at FaceIt had this to say:

“I think there are a few key things that come to mind. One of which is whether or not their approach or strategy is adding value to the scene or the communities within it. The way to ensure value is through the activations of any campaigns or sponsorships that they create or invest in. Another key element, and this is a word that is thrown around a lot right now but it is highly important, is ‘authenticity.’ Naturally, there are media buy opportunities in this space, but I believe that brands who see that as the only option for them will not maximize their investment. In addition, those brands that try to buy market share by investing large money for the most amount of exposure possible, without a considered approach, could have a detrimental effect on their opportunity.

ESports communities are highly passionate and have no hesitation in sharing their thoughts, good or bad, publicly. If a brands actions don’t resonate, that will quickly come to the surface. Lastly, I would say this, take time to choose the right partners to work with and once you have selected them, listen to their advice. There are many organizations that have a huge amount of experience in the eSports ecosystem and have in-depth knowledge of the many nuances within communities and products. If brands select the right partners, they will be able to advise them on what will and won’t work. It is understandable that brands want to put their own stamp on things, but consider the advice from the experts.”

The Hi-Rez Expo, which took place in early January at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia, hosted three tournaments featuring the games Smite in separate PC and console tournaments and the fast-growing shooter, Paladins.

“As an industry, we’re finding that as more non-endemic sponsors come to events like these and experience the fan base, they’re beginning to understand that the enthusiasm they might have had as children around football, basketball or baseball are just as strong with these fans around our games—and that this is the future,” Stewart Chisam, president of Hi-Rez Studios, told [a]listdaily at the event. “My general advice is to get people to events like this, sit with them, talk with them about how these fans are engaged with eSports.”

Following the announcement of the Activision Blizzard Media Networks in 2015, the game publisher threw support behind eSports in a big way. The company purchased of Major League Gaming (MLG) one year ago, and then went on to sell out the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio with the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championship event.

Josh Cella, head of sales at MLG, offered this advice to brand sponsors:

“There is uncharted terrain in both broadcast integration as well as event activation. The fans want to see brands come in and take a thoughtful approach, which includes celebrating the games, the pros and being authentic to the culture. There is also a significant amount of creative executions that have yet to be developed. That is what is exciting for us.”

Matt Wolf, Christina Alejandre and Todd Harris (Hi-Rez Studios) will be speaking at the [a]list summit. Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to for more info.

Why “Greatness Awaits” Still Inspires Gamers After Four Years

When video games and the people who play them come in so many genres and play styles, how do you speak to them all in one campaign? Seven years after its rocky launch of the PlayStation 3, Sony needed to promote the PlayStation 4 while reaching as many consumers as possible in an emotional way. The answer came in one phrase: “Greatness Awaits”—a concept that video games, regardless of genre, make gamers feel good when they play. After four years, the campaign is still going strong by conveying a feel-good message of accomplishment and adventure through the world of video games with PlayStation.

2013: The Beginning Of Greatness

The first commercial aired during Game Three of the NBA Finals in June 2013—wowing viewers with its live-action elements and containing 35 “secrets” that fans and news outlets immediately went to work dissecting. An interactive version allowed viewers to unlock exclusive content by clicking on hot spots throughout the video, adding an immersive element to garner excitement for upcoming games.

“We think it beautifully articulates what awaits you if you come to the PlayStation platform,” Sony Computer Entertainment of America’s former brand marketing head, senior vice president Guy Longworth told [a]listdaily when the spot was first unveiled. “You can achieve your greatness, you can be an NBA star, you can be a football star, you can kill dragons, you can go on adventures—you can be a hero. You can live your dreams when you’re playing games. Gamers are so passionate, they love this stuff so much, we really wanted to make an emotional connection and help them understand that we really care about them and everything we do is laser-focused on meeting their needs.”

The campaign left a lasting impression, as the PlayStation 4 went on to sell over seven million units in just five months—the largest video game console launch in history.

2014: A Perfect Day

Sony continued its “Greatness Awaits” campaign into the coming year, this time focusing on the joy of playing online with friends. The live-action commercial and subsequent campaign went on to win Cyber Gold at Cannes Lions 2014. Variations of “Greatness” were utilized throughout Sony’s campaigns from the slogan, “Where The Greatest Play” to “First To Greatness”—challenging players to achieve in-game goals before anyone else and “Bid For Greatness,” an online auction in which players could trade trophies earned in-game for real-life collectibles.

The key to this campaign’s success was not only living your dreams through video games, but embracing a community of other gamers online. This message was hit home in another live-action commercial about the time-honored tradition of challenging friends to play.

2015: Star Wars May Be The Ultimate Nostalgia

Sony’s “Greatness Awaits” was the perfect vehicle to fuel hype for Star Wars: Battlefront, especially since The Force Awakens was about to hit theaters over that holiday season. The live-action spot reminds gamers that if they’ve ever played Star Wars as a child, Battlefront was the next best thing to jumping out the window and into an X-wing.

2016: More Adventures To Be Had

“Greatness never settles,” PlayStation said on Twitter before revealing its latest live-action commercial. “The King” tells the tale of a bored royal who has accomplished many things, but wants more. Accompanied by Scala & Kolacny Brothers’ cover of Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams, the young King sets off an adventure through the worlds of PlayStation-exclusive titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn and God of War.

It’s not often that a brand uses the same mantra for so long, but “Greatness Awaits” continues to wow and inspire gamers by acknowledging and celebrating the adventures that only video games can provide. Fans aren’t tired of the slogan either, as “The King” has garnered over 11 million views across YouTube and Facebook to date.

Analytics firm Gallup recently reported that economic decision making is 70 percent emotional and 30 percent rational. Through interactive storytelling, players create emotional bonds with fictional characters, situations and by playing with their friends. Focusing on the feeling of playing a video game reaches audiences on a strong, emotional level—no doubt attributing to the long-term success of “Greatness Awaits.”

The Brands Tackling Super Bowl 51 Through TV Ads

It’s that time of year again and football fever is in full swing. For Super Bowl LI, brands are gearing up for their debut in the grand tradition of high-cost, high-impact TV commercials.

Last year’s Super Bowl ads were a big hit from Arnold Schwarzenegger battling it out for Mobile Strike and a motivational celebration for Pokémon’s 20th anniversary to Kia’s “Walken Closet” and Campbell’s tribute to Mom.

The TV won’t be the only screen consumers turn to during the big game, however. A survey by Influence Central found that 78 percent of consumers engage on social media platforms (led by Facebook and Twitter) while watching the Super Bowl, either to comment on the commercials (38 percent), to react to the game (32 percent) or to post pictures of their own Super Bowl parties (18 percent).

84 Lumber

The Pennsylvania-based lumber company has invested in this pricey, but coveted spot to tell America that they’re in a position to hire upward of 400 hard workers.

Avocados From Mexico

Avocados From Mexico makes a tasty return for its third year at the Super Bowl with a spot during the first commercial break of the game. Avocados From Mexico will focus on a “health and wellness” message that includes statements like, “avocados have good fats and may help consumers who are looking for a healthier diet.”

Bai Brands

Justin Timberlake, investor and “chief flavor officer” of the health drink brand, will appear in its second-consecutive Super Bowl ad.


Although the company denies any deliberate correlation between its new commercial and current events, Budweiser is telling the story of Adolphus Busch and his perilous journey to America in 1857, where he would go on to co-found Budweiser.

The company’s first-ever Busch ad takes a much lighter tone, although it remains true to the beer’s advertising roots. A flannel-wearing mountain man demonstrates the beer can’s “Buschhhhh” sound that echoes through the mountains, reminiscent of ads that go back to the 1970s. Even Spuds MacKenzie makes a comeback.


The car manufacturer will return for its second Super Bowl with a 30-second ad starring Miranda Kerr and Cam Newton.


Proctor & Gamble brand, Febreze will make its Super Bowl debut with a 30-second spot airing in the second quarter that celebrates “America’s Halftime Bathroom Break.”

Fiji Water

This third-quarter ad will be Fiji Water’s first foray into the Super Bowl scene, although it will feature a previously-aired campaign.


At 133 years old, Ford is the second-oldest car manufacturer advertising at the Super Bowl, but its ad doesn’t focus on the latest model. Instead, the company will share a message of mobility from bicycles to ride sharing and of course, self-driving cars of the future.


After sitting out last year’s game, GoDaddy is back to promote its new website-building tool.


Honda returns with a bit of help from Steve Carell and some inspirational advice.

H&R Block

Continuing its tax day push, John Hamm will appear in an unreleased spot for the franchise.


Rather than show off the latest model, Hyundai is celebrating everyday people who make the world a better place.


To show off the 360-degree replay technology that will be used for the Super Bowl, Intel made Tom Brady’s daily routine a bit more epic.

It’s A 10 Haircare

The first Super Bowl ad by an independently-owned hair care brand will air in the third quarter. It’s A 10 Haircare has purchased a 30-second spot that will be directed by the Oscar-nominated Bryan Buckley.

Jack In the Box

Jack in the Box heard you liked bacon, so they made the Triple Bacon Buttery Jack—a new burger that will get its own commercial during the Super Bowl this year. To kick off its new campaign, the restaurant chain took advantage of recent email hack issues to do a bit of “hacking” of their own—exposing Jack’s secrets online, which are, not surprisingly, burger-related.


Billy Zane stars as a new, very golden Colonel in this year’s spot.


It’s hard to top finding Christopher Walken in your closet with socks on his hands, but Kia is back for its eighth Super Bowl campaign. This year, they’ve enlisted the help of Melissa McCarthy, who stars as an “eco-warrior” trying to do the right thing for Mother Nature. The spot, highlighting the all-new Niro cross-over debuted February 1 through Kia’s Neobot for Facebook Messenger—the first brand to debut a Super Bowl ad in this manner.

King’s Hawaiian

Appearing in the fourth quarter is Super Bowl newcomer, King’s Hawaiian with a message about dinner rolls and a new line of BBQ sauces.


Returning for its third year, Lexus will show off a vibrant, dance-themed ad starring street dancer Charles “Lil Buck” Riley and narrated by Minnie Driver. The spot will air in the second quarter of the Super Bowl to promote its 2018 LC 500 performance coupe.


The luxury car brand has aired three commercials in the past, although not in sequential years. After sitting 2016 out, Mercedes-Benz will return to the Super Bowl show off its new GT Roadster with a little help from Peter Fonda.

Mobile Strike

Arnold is back, and this time he has a score to settle.

Mr. Clean

Making its first-ever Super Bowl debut is Mr. Clean with a humorous spot that makes cleaning sexy.


Getting its new console in front of as many eyes as it can before the March launch, Nintendo will air its first-ever Super Bowl this year, highlighting the Switch.

Paramount Pictures

A TV spot will air for Ghost In The Shell—a sci-fi action film starring Scarlett Johansson and based on the popular manga and anime series.


Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco sends an important message to viewers about not being a party pooper. On a more serious note, Tostitos is introducing a bag of chips that can detect alcohol on a user’s breath. If it does, a red steering wheel icon appears with a message not to drink and drive, along with a $10 Uber discount code. Mountain Dew is introducing two new flavors—Raspberry Citrus and Mango Lime—which come paired with an AR “Kickstart ” Super Bowl experience that lets fans create their own mascots using virtual props. Fifteen-second videos featuring personalized mascots can then be shared on social media using the hashtag #KICKSTART. Pepsi-Co.’s Frito-Lay branch will sit out the big game this year, leaving a crunchy, Dorito-shaped hole in our hearts.

LifeWTR will make its first appearance during the game with a colorful spot accompanied by a song from John Legend.


The detergent brand returns for its second-consecutive year with another ad themed around “The Professional.”


Back for its third year, football fans (and everyone else) have been feeling the love with Skittles’ “Romance” spot, set to air in the first quarter.


Fun fact—the Snickers candy bar was named after the Mars family’s favorite horse. The company’s live commercial airing during Super Bowl LI also has a horse. And Adam Driver. And a dead cowboy, apparently.


The brand promises a “real cliffhanger” for this year’s spot.


John Malkovich illustrates the struggles of waiting too long to secure a domain name in this new 30-second spot. In reality, the actor does own the site, and he hired SquareSpace to help design the web page.


The New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski stars in this spot about a dry cleaner who takes the liberty of “improving” customer garments. Actor Jeffrey Tambor also makes an appearance in the campaign.

Tiffany & Co.

Just before Lady Gaga takes the stage at halftime, she will grace the screen for Tiffany’s first-ever Super Bowl ad entitled, “Legendary Style.” This is also the first TV ad from the company in 20 years, despite designing the Super Bowl winner’s trophy since 1967.


Justin Bieber explores the history of touchdown dances in this new spot by T-Mobile.

Top Games USA, Inc.

Mobile game developer Top Games joins the Super Bowl for the first time with an ad promoting its game Evony: The King’s Return.


Returning for a fourth year is the tax preparation software company with a 45-second spot featuring DJ Khaled. Focused on the product’s live video component, the “Relax It’s TurboTax” campaign aims to inject a bit of humor into the dreaded task of filing taxes.


Appearing for the first time, the restaurant chain will make a statement about its fresh, never-frozen hamburger patties.


Although a preview hasn’t been released, WeatherTech will return with its fourth-consecutive Super Bowl ad.


Returning for its third Super Bowl spot is custom website builder, Wix, who aims to highlight the company’s “creative capabilities.” Last year, the brand teamed up with DreamWorks for a cross-promotion of Kung Fu Panda 3, but this time it’s all about Wix, itself. The new ad has already amassed nearly four million views on YouTube alone, a good sign for the brand leading up to the Big Game.

“For the first Super Bowl we were new and not very well known, for the second Super Bowl we chose to work with a big brand partner, and now we are really excited about telling the story ourselves,” Wix CEO, Omer Shai said in a statement.

Wonderful Pistachios

Returning after a two-year hiatus is an ad for Wonderful Pistachios narrated by pro-wrestler John Cena.

In Other News . . .

  • GNC’s Super Bowl ad was approved, then denied because certain products included two of the 162 substances banned by the league.
  • When Yellow Tail wine decided to purchase a Super Bowl ad, they found that Budweiser holds the exclusive alcohol rights. The work around? Local ad buys across 70 TV markets will ensure that a majority of viewers still get a visual taste.
  • Pedigree’s Puppy Bowl XIII will return to Animal Planet, but this time with a twist. During the game, Pedigree will sponsor a “Puppy Bowl Virtual Reality” experience offering viewers a chance to check out the action on the field through the eyes of Buttons, one of this year’s star puppy players.

Jagex Activates Amazon Alexa Gaming Potential

Jagex is one of the first big game companies to take the “video” out of video games and explore the potential for interactive audio gaming with the Amazon Alexa platform. RuneScape, Jagex’s massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, has introduced an exclusive audio-based adaptation of its award-winning content as a Skill for Amazon’s Alexa voice service.

RuneScape Quests: One Piercing Note is an interactive murder mystery audio adventure game, produced in partnership by Amazon and the RuneScape game team at Jagex Games Studio. It’s currently available from the Skills section in the Alexa App for Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and all Alexa-enabled devices in the US and UK.

In the game, players become the voice of an adventurer tasked with solving a murder at the Abbey of St. Elspeth. Players choose their path throughout the adventure, engaging in audio puzzles, investigating crime scenes, selecting how to question suspects and (ultimately) how to catch the killer. The game takes full advantage of Alexa’s AI machine learning; using its speech recognition and spoken language extraction to make interactions more conversational and directions more natural, putting the player squarely in the role of a proper investigator.

Mark Ogilvie, design director for RuneScape, explains what Alexa opens up for established video game franchises in this exclusive interview with [a]listdaily.

Why did you decide to get involved with Alexa as a new gaming platform?

Fascination more than anything. We’re always interested in experimenting with new tech, and the idea of bringing our stories to Alexa was an opportunity we couldn’t say no to. A chance meeting at an event led to some of the Alexa Europe team being invited into the office, where we wowed them with some interesting ideas for the future. They were hooked!

How do you see Alexa growing the RuneScape brand to a new audience of gamers?

Every developer is interested in removing barriers to entry–we want the effort to play our games to be as small as possible. With the Alexa AI, you can play games in moments you would have thought impossible–no control pad, total hands-free interaction. I think for some, it’s the traditional methods of interaction that often prove the biggest inhibitors to playing any game. Also, people with Alexa-enabled devices might not be typical gamers. It’s a lifestyle gadget at the end of the day, not primarily a gaming platform. So that’s going to introduce new people to our worlds.

How do you see Alexa and Jagex leveraging each other’s brands for success?

Alexa Skill users are always looking for new ways to use their devices, and RuneScape players tell us they want to experience our world through different mediums. We both have an audience with an appetite for it.

How large was the team and how long did it take to develop this game?

We developed the game over about six weeks, with Amazon assisting with the technical development aspects of the project. At Jagex, it was a dedicated team of five, with some others helping out on a part-time basis. We also used a group of professional voiceover actors for the audio, who were amazing.

Runescape on Alexa

What were the challenges of developing for this new voice platform?

Because it’s so new, none of us really knew what we were doing in the early phases. Even Amazon themselves were discovering new challenges through One Piercing Note’s development. For example, there is a 90-second restriction for each section between user inputs, otherwise Alexa assumes the user has stopped and the skill self-terminates We didn’t know about that until halfway through development, so we had to rewrite huge chunks of dialogue and change the flow of the experience, adding points of interaction even after lots of the voice recording had been done. Frankly, you have to expect those sorts of challenges when using something so innovative.

What type of replay value has been built into this game?

We have a few different endings available, and there are choices throughout the adventure that lead to different experiences, which are often comedic sidesteps.

How can groups of people partake in this new adventure?

It’s primarily written as a solo adventure, but we have played it in groups in the office. Actually, my friends play tested it for me in a group. Just make sure you have an elected spokesperson and use the mute button liberally.

How does this new game tie into the traditional RuneScape game universe?

It’s a standalone adventure, so it doesn’t rely on RuneScape knowledge to play. But if you’re interested in medieval fantasy at all, it’s certainly something you should check out. One Piercing Note is actually a quest that exists in RuneScape today. It was originally written six years ago as our first quest with ‘proper’ audio that was fully voice acted and a story that used song as an integral part of the narrative. It’s set in an abbey inhabited by a group of holy sisters that believe song has the power to ward away demons. In the abbey, there has been a horrific murder, and the player embarks on a classic whodunit adventure with supernatural twists.

We’ve changed the quest a fair bit to capitalize on the nature of Alexa-enabled devices–it now includes audio puzzles, for example–so there’s plenty of new things in there for classic RuneScape fans to enjoy. The game responds to your choices on how to deal with the challenges you face, and ultimately who you suspect, so it’s really quite an empowering experience.

Is this an experiment or a new platform for further RuneScape adventures? What will ultimately decide that?

We’ve really enjoyed the experience, and our audio team in particular has had a real chance to shine and they exceeded all our expectations. Right now, it’s an experiment but we’d love to do more. We have some very bold ideas about using Alexa devices as traditional table-top dungeon masters. Perhaps they’d be able to properly roleplay, with the player using freeform responses that Alexa’s awesome linguistic skills can interpret, thus delivering unique adventure experiences. I think that’s very exciting.

Ultimately, it depends on the response from our communities and the download figures we get. If people like it and it has a positive effect on the RuneScape brand, we’d certainly be at the front of the queue to do more.

Febreze Breathes Some Fresh Air Into The Super Bowl With A Funky Ad Strategy

Americans will consume 325.5 million gallons of beer, 1.33 billion pieces of chicken wings and 139 million pounds of avocados on Super Bowl Sunday.

Knowing very well that the colloquial holiday for communal gluttony will naturally lead to an unabashed blitzkrieg of bloated guests with bulging bladders looking for brief solace in bathrooms nationwide, Febreze is celebrating the biggest day of the year for football fans and brands alike by celebrating with “America’s Halftime Bathroom Break.”

Febreze, an official partner of the NFL, is joining Super Sunday as a sponsor with its first-ever ad for the big game by tapping actress Kathryn Hahn with a fully fleshed out campaign that introduces their new OdorClear technology.

The 30-second ad—which Fox is charging close to a cool $5 million for—is conveniently timed to air just prior to the stampede to the can at halftime, and just before Lady Gaga serenades the projected 110 million people who are going to tune in to watch the game. The TV spot will be complemented with a longer form online video, digital ads, in-store and a PR campaign linked with Charmin.

Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s highest-spending advertisers and parent company of Febreze, is taking a set of brand triplets to TV for Super Bowl. Tide and Mr. Clean will have presence with commercials, too.

On the digital side, however, P&G issued a call to arms to the ad industry earlier this week over an “antiquated” media buying process, demanding that it be cleaned up—or else they’ll invest elsewhere. Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief marketing officer, slammed the “crappy media supply chain” and urged marketers to act in the face of “crappy advertising accompanied by even crappier viewing experiences” at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Hollywood, Florida.

P&G, set to review all agency contracts in 2017, spent $7.2 billion on advertising last year, according to the annual financial report they released.

The Febreze brand spent a portion of that, and they are no stranger to taking risks with some funky fresh marketing. During the holidays, the odor-eliminating spray brought back its second installment of the holiday marketing hit with the “12 Stinks of Christmas” featuring “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” in beatbox pioneer Doug E. Fresh to breathe some fresh air into the homes of Santa-celebrating citizens.

Martin Hettich, vice president of P&G home care in North America and a brand franchise leader for global air care, joined [a]listdaily to detail their Super Bowl marketing strategy.


Why was it critical for Febreze to be a part of the Super Bowl conversation for the first time this year?


This year marks the launch of our toughest formula to date, the new Febreze with OdorClear technology. Febreze is now even more effective at eliminating odors from your air and soft surfaces. This is the largest product innovation since our ‪inception, and to us, that is worth celebrating with an all-new ad campaign called ‘Odor Odes’ and our first-ever Super Bowl spot. The Super Bowl spot is based on a consumer driven insight—bathroom usage spikes at halftime. There is no better time or place to remind consumers that the new Febreze with OdorClear technology cleans away the trillions of football-fueled odors during the halftime bathroom break.

What is Febreze’s marketing strategy for its new brand marketing campaign in “Odor Odes?”

Let’s face it: sometimes the things you love the most can be super stinky. Our old basement couches, our furry friends, favorite yoga pants and our cooking experiments. They ultimately make our lives better . . . even when they stink. An ‘Odor Ode’ is a witty way to honor the things we love the most that can stink the most, including the much-anticipated halftime bathroom break. Febreze has a long, successful tradition of keeping it ‘real’ with consumers and ‘Odor Odes’ is our new marketing campaign to extend that wit and realness while sharing that the new Febreze cleans away life’s odors.

How will lifestyle blogger Katherine Schwarzenegger and NFL star Josh Norman further promote the campaign? Is it paired with a larger influencer marketing strategy?

Katherine, Josh and [Denver Broncos wide receiver] Emmanuel Sanders will serve as brand spokespersons, reminding football fans everywhere the importance of being ready for the impending halftime bathroom break, with Febreze and Charmin. As part of the PR effort, we are spreading the word that with a little party prep—including putting the new Febreze with OdorClear technology and Charmin Ultra Strong on your gameday shopping list so that you can prevent a serious and stinky party foul. When the whistle blows, the halftime bathroom break ensues—in fact, more toilets are flushed between the second and third quarter of the Super Bowl than any other time during the year!

How else are you leveraging your partnership with the NFL?

The NFL partnership will be seen in marketing collateral, in-store and through PR efforts. In addition, Josh and Emmanuel will serve as brand spokespersons for the ‘Halftime Bathroom Break’ with Febreze and Charmin on Radio Row in Houston this week.

Which social channels is Febreze most interested in engaging with your audience during the Super Bowl for your longer-form film? Are you looking to test any new emerging platforms? How do you plan to win big on social, too?

We’re always looking for new ways to engage our audiences and be a part of the conversations they are already having. The long form of the Super Bowl work helps to tell the full story of why consumers should be prepared with Febreze. Aside from our owned channels, we will also be working with Katherine, Josh and Emmanuel to engage their loyal followers on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and more. We also will be live posting on game day.

The price of Super Bowl ads has grown 75 percent in the last decade, reaching upward of a $5 million price tag. Why is it worth it? How can digital budgets and efforts be properly executed, and even be a centerpiece?

With over 100 million fans expected to watch the Super Bowl this year—and the anticipated spikes in halftime bathroom usage—we felt it was the perfect time and place to unveil our first-ever Super Bowl ad. For us it’s about reach and relevance—and our campaign this year has both. We don’t comment on marketing budgets but will say the proper holistic combination of traditional, digital and earned media has worked very well for our brand.

What creative and marketing trends will you be paying attention to from competing advertisers this year?

We always love seeing what other brands can come up with, especially during the Super Bowl. Everyone brings their A-game and we’re excited to be a part of it all this year. We have to say—this year seems to be the year of the cleaning brands. We’re loving the Mr. Clean spot and can’t wait to see Tide’s spot in the big game, too.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan


Stardock CEO Details Building ‘Galactic Civilizations III’ Expansion And Growing In Digital Marketplace

Galactic Civilizations was originally inspired by Sid Meier’s Civilization, which ends with humanity launching a ship out into space. Brad Wardell, president and CEO of Stardock Entertainment, wanted to know what happened next, so he and his company created the game to answer that question. Now on its third game, Galactic Civilizations remains as Stardock’s most popular series, even amid other stand-out games such as the visually stunning Ashes of the Singularity and the real-time economic strategy game, Offworld Trading Company.

Galactic Civilizations III (GalCiv3) launched in 2015 and is a sci-fi 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) turn-based PC strategy game. In it, players are challenged to grow a civilization while exploring the depths of space and interacting with aliens. But the key feature is how players can design custom ships and share them with the community. To date, the community has made over 15,000 ships, with designs inspired by everything from Star Wars to Star Trek. Want spaceships shaped like sharks with lasers shooting from their eyes? You got it, it’s out there.

Today, Stardock announced a new Galactic Civilizations III expansion called Crusade, which will bring a host of new features to the game when it releases in the spring. The focus of the expansion is to “create a much deeper yet more approachable space strategy game,” said Galactic Civilizations III lead designer, Paul Boyer in a press release.

Brad Wardell sat down with [a]listdaily to talk about the upcoming expansion, what it takes for games to stand out in the digital market, and why Stardock may require more adult supervision.

Brad Wardell, Stardock Entertainment CEO
Brad Wardell, Stardock Entertainment president and CEO

What does Crusade add to Galactic Civilizations III?

Crusade addresses a lot of the things our player base was looking for, even in the base game. GalCiv2 was the beneficiary of many years of expansions and upgrades. With GalCiv3, we went to a brand new 64-bit engine that supports DirectX 11 and all that, so we lost some of the features that we had built up in the series. Crusade adds an espionage system, an interactive invasion system that’s sort of a mini-game by itself, a civilization builder [and other features]. One of the strengths of the series has been the ability to design your own ships. Crusade lets you design a civilization and assign ships to different classes, meaning the colony ships will always look one way and other ships another.

With the ability to create custom ships, has there been any consideration given to creating packs that cross-promote with other IPs such as Star Wars or Star Trek?

That would be awesome. I’d love to see the biz dev team license the official rights from Lucasfilm and CBS. That way, players could legitimately play these ships and finally put to rest who is more powerful, the Federation or the Empire.

How did you initially get the word out about GalCiv3 when it launched?

Galactic Civilizations I and II had tremendous followings already. So, when GalCiv3 was announced, it already had a big built-in audience.

Was it difficult to reach past that core audience to attract new players?

That’s a growing challenge in the market in the age of digital distribution—there are so many titles out there. In the old days, Galactic Civilizations I and II were at retail. So, if you went to the store, there were only thirty or forty games on the shelf. That made it very easy for the first two games. GalCiv2 sold three million copies in its lifetime, but it was the 4X game. Nowadays, there are so many space 4X games out there, and some have become very popular in their own right, so it can be really hard. Digital distribution is the great equalizer, which is super helpful for new games, but it makes it much harder to get the word out on your titles because there are a finite number of channels where you can do that.

Do Early Access periods for games such as GalCiv3 and Offworld Trading Company help with spreading the word out about them?

My feeling on Early Access has evolved over time, and I think gamers have changed their views on what it is. When it first came on the scene, I think most people understood that you were playing a beta. GalCiv3 benefitted because you had a lot of people helping with ideas and playtesting it, but they generally understood that it was a work in progress. Fast forward to Offworld Trading Company, Ashes of the Singularity and other recent games—Early Access can permanently affect how people see those games. What will happen is that people will play the Early Access game, form their impressions, and not revisit them. I think Early Access can now hurt a game because they will load up an Early Access game, form a negative opinion because it’s not done, and then they’ll go out and spread the word about how it’s not good.


How does launching a game expansion compare to releasing an all new game?

It’s a lot murkier. A sequel is much cleaner to do than an expansion or DLC. Originally, we were going to make Crusade as a standalone game, but there has been increasing backlash in the gaming community over the past year or two against that sort of thing. They want it all as one package. So, we decided to do that with Crusade, even though it’s a lot more engineering work.

So, it is harder to do the marketing on it than for a sequel because you have to have the base game. Once you get into that, you get into the debate of whether people thought the base game was fun or not. If they didn’t, you’ll get people who will argue that the expansion is charging to fix the things that should have been fixed for free. For some reason, that sort of thing never shows up with sequels.

How do you convince people to buy expansions, instead of having them wait for gold, bundled, or collected editions?

One of the interesting things that has happened on Steam is the integration of a feature called dynamic bundles. You can now buy these games at the press of button and get everything. For example, right now, there’s a Galactic Civilizations III Gold, and it includes all of the DLC. If you have some of the DLC already, it generates the price dynamically to specifically address this concern. Now you can always buy the gold edition, so to speak, and get a huge discount on the new DLC. It’s a real game changer for players, because now you’re not being punished for being an early adopter.

Considering how Stardock once owned a digital store (Impulse), what would you say is the best way to engage audiences digitally?

The answer to that is rapidly changing. Back when I was younger in the retail world, you would do a media tour out to the Bay Area and couple of other places, and then go to Europe to visit some of the magazines. There were only a handful of outlets you needed to visit to get the word out. Nowadays, you have so many game sites in addition to Reddit, YouTube and Twitch. You have to distribute out to all of them. Then there’s Steam itself, which has become the primary vessel for getting people aware of your title using its increasingly sophisticated recommendation system.

gc3_Crusade-1_DiscoveryHow does Stardock engage with its community?

That is something that is always evolving as well. You have Stardock and then you have me, and I hang out everywhere. It’s getting tough, because we do stuff on Steam and our own forums, but there isn’t the same kind of streamlined or focused ability to communicate with people as there used to be. So, it’s an ongoing challenge.

Why do you think 4X strategy games still have such a strong appeal, with so many action and real-time games available now?

I think people like to build things. If you look at the most popular [strategy games], they’re really good at rewarding players for exploring something that’s different every time and building something in what they’ve explored. One of the things I’ve always found interesting is that the number of people who aren’t interested in the warfare aspects of these games—rather, they’re just happy to build something—is tremendous. I think it’s just very appealing.

With games that cover everything from sci-fi strategy to fantasy role-playing, how would you describe the Stardock brand?

It’s even harder than that. We also make Fences, Start10 and other applications. Really, the games are a small part of what we do. I would probably describe Stardock as a hobby that got out of hand, and we really need adult supervision. Every time we get a new marketing manager, there are always two things: 1. Brad, please get off the internet. 2. What is it that we do here?

The answer is, [in addition to games] we have a blog site, a skinning site where you can download wallpapers, and we have Multiplicity. When you go to hospitals, you’ll find our software on MRI machines. We’re even working on a comic book and we published a book this past year about the technological singularity. So, it really is a hobby that got out of hand.