One of the self-proclaimed greatest villains in history is coming to the Super Bowl to take over the world — but only if he can save it first.
General Motors is likely to cause a stir on Sunday when it debuts a Super Bowl commercial for its growing fleet of electric vehicles that reunites the cast of the 1997 hit “Austin Powers.” The goal is to get consumers thinking about cars and trucks that are better for the environment. In the spot, Dr. Evil, played by Mike Meyers, realizes he needs to help keep the environment from deteriorating if he is to have a society to control. And so, he takes over GM.
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“We are using climate change as the enemy,” says Deborah Wahl, General Motors’ global chief marketing officer. The automaking giant knows for “a large majority of first movers and the younger population, this is very much in line with their purpose and their vision, and they are very concerned about climate change overall.” In addition to Myers, Rob Lowe, Seth Green and Mindy Sterling all reprise their roles from the movie series.
“It really does feel like the band that has been playing together for 30 years,” says Green. “’Austin Powers’ is still one of the most globally recognized things I’ve done. There is a fan base for it.” General Motors says the actors have not come together in this fashion for more than 20 years. The last movie in the series, “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” was released in 2002.
The 60-second spot, set to air in the third quarter of NBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, was crafted with Interpublic Group’s McCann WorldGroup, and continues General Motors’ efforts to get consumers thinking about buying electric vehicles. In last year’s Super Bowl, GM enlisted Will Ferrell for a comedic ad that had the actor getting angry at Norway because it sells more electric cars than the U.S. GM believes a new generation of car buyers wants to hear about ways to live more sustainably, and won’t be turned off by a message about the way the world’s systems are failing. According to GM research, consideration among U.S. consumers of electric vehicles stood around 5% last year when the ad with Ferrell came out. In 2022, she says, consideration has risen to 39%.
“We want to normalize EVs,” says Wahl, noting that the company plans to “help people see themselves in one,” whether it be a Cadillac, Hummer or Chevrolet. Viewers will also get peeks at other car concepts that GM is developing.
Key to the commercial was Myers’ desire to help craft the scene. “The only thing I know is that Mike took a very first-hand, personal interest in shaping the script so that it not only accurately represented the characters in the narrative, but also sold the product in way that the company was happy with,” says Green, who notes the cast has had many inquiries about reviving their characters for all kinds of things.
The company hopes the commercial makes a big splash during the game, where NBC has sought anywhere from $5.8 million to $7 million for 30 seconds of airtime. The price tag for ads continues to increase, a sign that Madison Avenue craves big events even as more TV viewers are moving to streaming and on-demand video. “This is truly the top platform to reach” big audiences, she adds.
With that in mind, Super Bowl advertisers need to take big swings, Wahl says: “Our dream as marketers is to have an impact on culture and on the direction that the world takes.” Will Dr. Evil feel the same way?
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