Space comes and goes as a hot trend in advertising, but if this year’s Super Bowl spots are any indication, space travel and sci-fi are back in for brands. At least four brands—Olay, SodaStream, Turkish Airlines and Walmart—will air ads that tie into space exploration and aliens on Sunday, using the theme to announce new campaigns and initiatives, or simply boost brand messaging.
Olay’s star-studded ad features Lilly Singh and Busy Phillips as astronauts heading to space with retired astronaut Nicole Stott as their co-pilot; Taraji P. Henson oversees mission control and Katie Couric reports on the ground. Adweek went behind the scenes for the filming of the ad produced by Badger & Winters, which celebrates female empowerment while touting the skincare brand’s new partnership with Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that gives coding classes for young women to prepare them for careers in STEM. At the end of the ad, Olay promises to donate $1 to the organization for every tweet with the hashtag #MakeSpaceForWomen during Sunday’s game.
The theme of Olay’s 30-second spot also ties into the brand’s “Face Anything” tagline, and relates to why Olay entered the Big Game last year—the brand wanted to “make space” for more women to see themselves represented during the Super Bowl.
“We’re living in pretty anxious times. When things on Earth become so stressful, there’s something about space that gives us permission to dream,” Madonna Badger, co-founder and CCO, Badger & Winters told Adweek.
Andrew Sirotnik, chief experience officer of Astound Commerce, a company that provides e-commerce strategy for brands, said space offers neutral territory.
“You could see a MAGA lady in Orange County and a liberal in New York loving the Olay spot,” he said. “There’s this universal feeling that space is cool.”
SodaStream’s first Super Bowl ad since 2014, produced by agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, depicts astronauts finding water on Mars with a creative end twist that reveals an environmental commitment. The soda machine brand states it will eliminate 67 billion single-use plastic bottles by 2025 so humans might not have to search for a new planet.
“Our goal is to reduce single-use plastic and take care of the planet,” said Bryan Welsh, general manager, SodaStream USA. “The space theme is so strong and so on-message. It represents us as a forward-looking brand.”
To achieve more buzz while remaining authentic to the theme, the brand tapped Bill Nye to star, as well as Alyssa Carson—an 18-year-old astronaut in training who plans to be on the first crewed mission to Mars in the next decade.
“The creatives did a lot of research around who was already fully invested in Mars, and the discovery of Alyssa was one of the favorite discoveries of the entire production,” said Jon Wolanske, creative director, Goodby Silverstein & Partners. “She has such a great story—and our thought was, let’s actually make her dream part of ours.”
Sirotnik noted the use of real astronauts in Olay and SodaStream’s is effective because they represent humankind’s heroes. “Astronauts are out there actively trying to save us, which is why we resonate with them,” he said. “They [represent] hope for a future and they have universal appeal.”
Turkish Airlines teased an homage to the history of space travel for its fourth consecutive Super Bowl ad, created by agency David Madrid in partnership with David Miami. Steve Parker, Jr., CEO and co-founder of digital marketing agency Levelwing—which produced a space-themed ad for Bridgestone in 2009—said brands want to leverage the sentiment sparked by advancements in space travel during the 1960s.
“Space travel sparks hope, wonderment and the idea of achieving something bigger than ourselves,” Parker said, adding that Turkish Airlines’ focus on the history aligns with “the advancement of us as human beings. There’s a lot of appeal in that, and [the theme] ties into the human condition of wanting to explore and better ourselves.”
Walmart chose to go a bit more sci-fi with its first Super Bowl ad, which brings together 12 pop-culture aliens to promote the retailer’s curbside pickup option as “out-of-this-world” convenience. The spot continues the company’s theme of using well-known film franchises for its campaign, featuring characters like the pug from Men in Black, martians from Mars Attack and the aliens from Arrival.
Janey Whiteside, evp and chief customer officer at Walmart, told Adweek the use of celebrated extraterrestrials is “a fun way of helping our customers understand pickup from Walmart is more than just groceries. With pickup, you can get everything you need for your journey in this galaxy.”
Sirotnik added that space in general is top of mind for brands because it provides optimism for consumers.
“It’s a really strange time to be an earthling right now. There’s this interesting confluence of extreme anxiety and a sense of optimism that somehow, we’re going to figure things out,” he said. “Space is the epitome of that. It’s unbridled optimism.”
For all the latest Super Bowl advertising news—who’s in, who’s out, teasers, full ads and more—check out Adweek’s Super Bowl 2020 Ad Tracker. And join us on the evening of Feb. 2 for the best in-game coverage of the commercials anywhere.
T.L. Stanley contributed reporting to this article.