Larry David Makes His Commercial Acting Debut in FTX's Hilarious Super Bowl Ad
The wheel. The fork. Lightbulbs. Portable music players. These were all miserable inventions doomed to failure.
So says Larry David in a wondrously whiny Super Bowl ad from crypto exchange FTX. DentsuMB developed the :60, dubbed "Don't Miss Out," with director Jeff Schaffer, one of Larry's frequent collaborators.
Making his commercial acting debut—he has done some print advertising, and many HBO promos—our beloved curmudgeon zips from Mesopotamia in 3000 BC to 2022, appearing at innovative moments to curb everyone's enthusiasm.
Larry pooh-poohs the concept of toilets ("We're not animals! We go outside, like humans!") At the first Continental Congress, he argues that "stupid people" don't deserve the right to vote, then physically assaults the Declaration of Independence.
In perhaps the best bit, set at 1960s Mission Control with a lovely nod to Katherine Johnson, he attempts to ground the Apollo project.
LARRY: Nobody's going to the moon—ever!
JOHNSON: Why not?
LARRY: It's faaar! It's too faaaar! It's faaaaar!
FTX's tempestuous temporal trip ends in the present day, at Larry's familiar Curb Your Enthusiasm office, where a company rep assured him, "It's a safe and easy way to get into crypto."
True to form, LD replies: "Naaah, I don't think so. And I'm never wrong about this stuff. Never!"
An on-screen message warns us: "DON'T be like Larry. Don't miss out on the next big thing."
You can watch an extended director's cut here.
During the ad's big-game broadcast, viewers were encouraged to retweet a pinned entry post at @FTX_Official to win some crypto. Four tweeters will receive bitcoin prizes. Since the spot popped at 7:54 ET, winners will get 7.54 BTC apiece. In old-money terms, that's $320, 397 each.
Sounds like a damn good idea for them, Larry!
Of the approach, FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried told the Washington Post: "We want to make sure that we're painting, hopefully, a healthy image of ourselves and the industry. We're optimistic that we're going to be able to grow our U.S. business. A lot of that is working with U.S. regulators on bringing new products to the market." (Currently, Bankman-Fried seeks government approval for FTX to operate as a derivatives exchange.)
If nothing else, the ad should serve as a conversation starter, with Larry delivering priceless hype value in an outing that's worthy of his talents.
Below, agency execs discuss how the project came together:
Muse: How'd this come about? Who approached whom?
Jason Stefanik, ECD, dentsuMB: It all started with a script we had about a man who was skeptical of every great evolution in human history. A man who decided to pass on the wheel, the lightbulb, computers—and on investing in cryptocurrency, which wasn't surprising, given his history of missing out on the next big thing.
We liked the script, but it needed the right talent. Someone known for doubting everything. Someone who is famous for being a skeptic. Someone iconic for saying no. So, when Andrew Hunter, our creative director, suggested Larry David, we all immediately knew that was it.
What was the client's reaction?
Stefanik: FTX was immediately on board, and they felt strongly that Larry was the only person who would work for this script. Because there are a lot of people just like Larry, who are skeptical of cryptocurrency, and many of their questions and concerns are valid. So, using someone who represents that doubt, but is often hilariously wrong, felt like a fun way to nudge those skeptics.
Larry isn't an FTX brand ambassador. He represents the people sitting on the sidelines trying to figure out whether they should check out cryptocurrency.
But he's never agreed to do a commercial before. That seems like a huge hurdle.
Stefanik: Despite hearing that Larry had turned down lots of projects, we went all in on trying to work with him. To our surprise, he loved the idea and was immediately into it. On our first call, he said that he gets ideas all the time and usually they're not that great. But in this case, and on the first call, Larry had a notepad ready to go with alternate scenes, alternate lines, even ideas for costumes and wigs.
What we came to realize throughout the process was that for Larry and Jeff [Schaffer], they don't say yes to things because of the money or where it will appear. They simply ask if it's funny and worth doing. And in this case, the answer was yes.
Can you talk about the creative process?
Stefanik: We worked on the script with Larry and Jeff for a few weeks. We would send over scenes and dialogue. They'd add new jokes or new scenes. Then we'd jump on a Zoom to talk it out. That was incredibly surreal, because not only were we discussing what was funnier—the fork or hair transplants—with Larry David, but he was often doing it while sitting in his office from Curb Your Enthusiasm.
What went down behind the scenes during production?
Andrew Hunter, creative director, dentsuMB: We shot over four days in L.A., two on location and two on a stage. You're moving quickly, and things inevitably overlap. The last two scenes we shot were the toilet scene and the [music-player] boardroom. It was important to everyone that Larry do the boardroom in perfect Japanese, and he worked hard at it. So, there's Larry, between takes for the toilet sequence, in tights and a preposterous hat—full medieval garb—practicing yelling in Japanese with a coach.
Katie Walley-Wiegert, director of brand communications, dentsuMB: We brought on a lot of talent with improv backgrounds, so there was a lot of real-time riffing happening. Some talent confessed to pinching themselves to stay in character, especially during the Continental Congress scenes. My cheeks hurt at the end of the first day of the shoot, because I howled and smiled so much. Every time Jeff would say "We got it," Larry would reply: "I want to do one more."
Why the crypto giveaway?
Hunter: It started as a need to build buzz for the commercial and make sure people would stay tuned in for our ad. What better way to incentivize people than to tie a prize to the time at which the ad runs?
Today, a great commercial isn't enough, at the Super Bowl or anywhere else. We have to build social into the core of every idea if we want to truly become a part of culture. We must give fans a reason to talk about us. And all of it speaks to what I love most about this campaign—there are layers and something for everybody. It speaks to crypto fans, to Larry and Curb fans, to skeptics, believers, and people who just want to laugh at a monk with a perfect tonsure haircut eating noodles with his hands.