Oatly’s Super Bowl Ad Is So Bad It’s Genius, and Bound to Sell More Oat Milk
Oatly is known as the company so genius at marketing that it created both demand and supply for oat milk when it first came to America from Sweden back in 2016 when the world was still obsessed with almond milk. But last night we saw a new side of Oatly when the company aired a 60-second spot during the Super Bowl that featured CEO Toni Petersson, singing a painful song off-key in a field of oats. The lyrics: "Milk, but made for humans, Wow, wow, no cow!" were so inane that the ad had to be another genius move, by a company so secure it can poke fun at itself.
At first, we thought this was a major misstep, but then upon watching it again by the light of day (Monday morning quarterbacking the ad choices) we think it is straight-up brilliant. And it is sure to sell millions more cartons of oat milk. When Oatly took the US by storm it changed the plant-based milk landscape to shift consumer demand from almond to oat milk. Now it is poised to go after ordinary dairy drinkers, and last night's ad was a major move in that direction.
Recently Oprah, Natalie Portman, Jay-Z and others invested in the company, which raised a new round of $200 million led by Blackstone. Other notable investors include Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks. The company is rumored to be eyeing an IPO on the near horizon. The latest ad appears to position it to be an alternative for anyone who is considering ditching dairy.
Best or Worst Ad of Super Bowl LV: You Decide. We Think: It's So Bad It's Genius!
The ad during the Super Bowl was actually more entertaining, in a cringy way than the game, which turned into a blow out by the plant-based QB Tom Brady's Bucs, showing up to shellack the younger (and more cow fed) QB Patrick Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs.
To watch the ad, just go here, and see for yourself what everyone is talking about. We love Oatly, and its plant-based milks, ice creams, coffee creamers and the lively packaging that winks at ordinary marketing. But did this ad jumped the shark? Or will it have millions of viewers talking about it, and trying it, in the days ahead? And when the ad was made, was there a discussion in the boardroom that involved someone stepping up to say: Maybe this is not such a great idea. No, Toni, no. This is going to be professional suicide. Did they talk him into it, or was it his idea? One thing's for sure: They bet $5.5 million on airing it, according to AdAge, which reported that the ad was made back in 2014 so the production costs were minimal. The advertising journal also tells us that the filming was in the can with just one or two takes.
The ad was first banned in Sweden, not because it was so bad that it would bring embarrassment to one of the country's best products, but because the Swedish dairy board had sued Oatly about calling itself milk. (A similar lawsuit in California against Miyoko's Creamery got thrown out. Butter can be made from cashews, oats, almonds or anything else, the judge correctly found, and as any youngster who loves peanut butter knows.) But last night's reaction to the ad, featuring Toni Peterssen was more like secondary embarrassment than anything else. You felt for the guy as if he were a member of your family, who just made the worst wedding toast ever. Still, it was memorable!
The commentary has been swift, cruel, and profoundly funny. Our favorite line among critics comes from Mashed:
"Toni Peterson[sic], Oatly's CEO, is in a field, playing on a keyboard. "It's like milk, but made for humans," he belts out, (delightfully?) off-key. "Wow, wow, no cow," he sings, over and over and over again. And over, and over, and over again. Coors might be trying to get us to collectively dream about their beer, but it's Oatly that will be haunting our sleep tonight."
We say, if they're talking about you, that's a win. Toni, keep singing. We love Oatly and even if you're like the American Idol contestant everyone makes fun of.... We want to hear more!