The Super Bowl commercials for Alexandria-based Michael & Son plumbing company might not have had the star power of, say, the Kim Kardashian T-Mobile spot or the pathos of Budweiser’s lost puppy, but they still generated plenty of buzz.
For one, they were politically-themed, a rarity in a realm usually reserved for bro-tastic slapstick, cute animals, and scantily-clad women hawking beer. In a 30-second spot that evokes the feel of a movie trailer, President Obama (not the genuine article, obviously; it was an impersonator) is facing a crisis in the Oval Office. “I’ve always said yes we can, but today, we can’t,” Faux-bama intones. “Michael and Son, America needs you.”
Plumbers to the rescue!
Some folks on Twitter praised the ad, calling it the “first funny” commercial of the night, “sick” (that’s a good thing), and creative. Other reactions were mixed: some called the spot “weird,” and others wondered whether the actor playing POTUS was white.
Did Michael and Son just try to pass a white guy off as Obama #ad
— Rose Kelly (@AngstyEnigma) February 2, 2015
(That was actually Bronx Obama, aka Louis Ortiz, an Obama look-alike whose story has been featured in documentary films and news stories.)
The company’s series of five-second ads poking fun of the NFL’s recent “deflate-gate” scandal also drew social-media chuckles.
Michael & Son killed it with these funny/borderline offensive to some regional Super Bowl ads: http://t.co/A1X4jY8sZa
— Josh Lee (@JoshL29) February 2, 2015
Subject matter aside, there was the camp factor. The ads were among the few for regional or local companies to air during the big game. Created by Springfield-based ESB Advertising and local production company Gearshift Productions, they’re not exactly the slick, big-budget productions of your typical Super Bowl ad. They feature a earworm-y jingle. (“If you can’t we can…”)
Basim Mansour, president of Michael & Son and the “son” in the company’s name, says they were meant to be playful. “We like to have fun,” he says. Of the reaction, he says it’s mission accomplished: “People are talking about them.”
Mansour wouldn’t say how much the company paid for the airtime or to make the ads, though he noted that regional ads don’t have anywhere close to the same multi-million dollar price tag as national ones. And since the company does lots of TV advertising year-round, the Super Bowl spots were discounted. “We’re good negotiators,” Mansour says. The ads ran in the markets that the company serves, including Washington, Baltimore, Charlottesville, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Raleigh, and Charlotte.
Mansour also tells us that the commercials almost turned out very differently. They had originally lined up Mike Tyson to star, and the former heavyweight champ was going to re-enact a famous scene from “The Hangover” in which he punches the character played by Zach Galifinakis.
But Tyson, it turned out, had signed a contract that forbade him from reprising that role — so it was back to the drawing board. Gearshift Productions owner Jim Folliard said his crew shot scenes at the reproduction Oval Office and presidential podium at Madam Toussaud’s wax museum and at the Manassas airport.
“It was literally 10 days before the Super Bowl,” he said. “We’re really efficient.”
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