Tide and Stella Artois Directors Traktor on the Secret to Super Bowl Success

They've done 22 big game spots over the years

Traktor have done their share of Super Bowl commercials over the years—some 22 over the past 20 years, including Miller Lite "Evil Beaver," FedEx "Stick" and most notably, the "Bradshaw Stain" and "It's a Tide Ad" campaigns for Tide in the past two games.

The Swedish directing collective, repped globally by Stink, also tackled two spots for this year's telecast: "Change Up the Usual" for Stella Artois (via Mother New York) and "The Pitch" for Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer (via Bullish). 

Stella Artois | Change Up The Usual: Full Version
BON & VIV Spiked Seltzer – The Pitch (162)

We asked Traktor about their Super Bowl experiences over the years, and how advertising for the game has (and hasn't) changed since the '90s. (Note: Traktor consists of directors Sam Larsson, Pontus Löwenhielm, Patrik von Krusenstjerna, Ole Sanders, Mats Lindberg and producer Richard Ulfvengren—but they tend to answer questions as a group under the Traktor name.)

Muse: How has advertising for the game changed over the years? Could some of the spots you made in the '90s still air today? 
Traktor: Everything has changed. And nothing. Our spots from the '90s could probably have aired, but they may not have been made in the first place if it was deemed that they didn't hit the requisite need for tickling the quandrangles and driving the clicks. Bait & Win, Constable! 

What trends have you seen in the past few years in particular? 
In a funny sort of way it feels like commercials increasingly resemble each other when it REALLY matters. I.e., a "Super Bowl spot" is expected to be structured a certain way, and often is. Start small. Escalate. Disarm the celebrity. Involve the whole world. Cut wide. Rinse and repeat. We're OK with that if you are. Or are we? When we made last year's "It's a Tide Ad," we could use this to our advantage and celebrate the lexicon of (commercial) love.

What makes a great Super Bowl ad, generally speaking? 
We love it when an ad feels effortless and that the understandable pressures from the committees are nowhere to be felt. Ads that just ARE and that hit you from left field with unexpected freshness and a gleam in the third eye. No, not that one...

There are certain familiar themes to a lot of Super Bowl ads: celebrities, animals, spectacle, humor. Is it smart to lean into those as a way to entertain, or better to forge a new path? 
Well the answer should probably be "forge a new path," but that is easier said than done. There's a lot at stake, and the powers that be could be forgiven for feeling that ticking boxes is a safe way not to be teased at dinner parties. Which, when it comes down to it, is the biggest fear/motivation for all of us. Is this burrata store-bought?

What are a few of your favorite Super Bowl spots you've done, and what did you like about them? 
The Miller Lite "Dick" spots coincided with our staggered arrival in the Americas, so we have a soft spot for the hard sell therein. Our FedEx "Caveman" delivered an Emmy win (via Pterodactyl!) so that helped with the eventual green card applications.

Winning the banquet with "It's a Tide Ad" last year was also a nice boost of B12 where it tingles.

You've directed a couple of spots for this year's game. What can you tell us about the experience of shooting the Bon & Viv and Stella Artois spots? 
For Bon & Viv we enjoyed creating an underwater world. We worked with the cinematographer Dan Laustsen, who shot The Shape of Water, and he gave our water some shape. When the Stella Artois script came our way, we jumped on it even though we never thought in a million years we would actually get Carrie Bradshaw and the Dude. Together! That was a tremendous couple of days in the office and an honor to have shot.

What do you think about the trend of releasing Super Bowl ads early? Doesn't it ruin the surprise a bit? 
It does ruin the surprise, for sure. There's probably mountains of evidence that it is the best way to create impact. It helps knowing that of the 111 million people who watch the Super Bowl, only a fraction of us navel gazers will have actually looked up from our navels before the game. What's in your navel?

What kinds of advertising do you generally hope to see in the Super Bowl? 
Spots that are not as good as ours. Amazon Alexa was, and boy howdy we feel it below the waist. And we like it. We're alwasy hoping for some paradigm-shifting genre-obliterating humdingers that will keep the Super Bowl a hallowed and magical forum for many watercoolers to come. Go Bears! 

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards.