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'Puppy love': How a Super Bowl ad is made

  • Johnny Dantonio is part of the team behind the iconic Super Bowl ads for Budweiser
  • He explains what it takes to make a Super Bowl-worthy ad
'Puppy love': How a Super Bowl ad is made

Editor’s note: Johnny Dantonio is a creative/copy writer with Anomaly ad agency in New York City. He was part of the team that created the “Brotherhood” Super Bowl commercial for Budweiser in 2013. This year, he’s part of the same team that worked on the “Puppy Love” Super Bowl commercial for the brand. He is on Twitter.

HLN: Super Bowl ads are a huge part of the game. What does it take to create a hit?
Johnny Dantonio: The first thing it takes is the right team. That’s a tough situation because it’s a Budweiser team, it’s an Anomaly team, it’s an RSA Films team, and it’s a No. 6 editorial team. All those teams need to be on the same page, have trust between all of those moving parts and really clear, direct brief from the client, Budweiser, saying this is exactly what I want to communicate on the biggest stage there is, which is the Super Bowl.

HLN: Take us through the process of making a Super Bowl ad, brainstorming to production:
Dantonio: We throw out a whole lot of ideas. The cream rises to the top -- the best ideas win. You present those best three, four, five ideas to the client, Budweiser, and they direct what they want to move forward to. And you just refine your script and refine your ideas. In this case, it took six months, from August to about November or December. Then we go through director reels and choose who should shoot this. Boom, once you decide on that, you get into production: You get locations locked down and the whole team then goes out to the shoot.

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HLN: Did you get to go to the shoot?
Dantonio: I did. I got to see all the puppies! There are eight of them, and they’re adorable! Unbelievable job by our puppy trainers and horse trainers. What’s so amazing to me is how many moving parts there are, how well everyone gets along and that they’re all there for the common goal, which is to create something that everybody is going to love.

HLN: So how many puppies play the role of the one pup we see in the ad?
Dantonio: There was a litter of eight, and you get glimpses of multiples. But they’re all brothers and sisters, just adorable dogs. You can’t even fathom a 10-week-old puppy going sit, kiss, sniff, paw and bark.

HLN: How were the animals directed on set?
Dantonio: The trainer would put down the mark and the puppy would come out and sit on its mark. Then the horse trainer would give a command to the Clydesdale to bow and to interact with the dog. And you just sit behind the camera, hold their breath and cross their toes and fingers. We got some really great stuff.

READ: Super Bowl ads to watch on Sunday

HLN: How do you react when you see your work on TV?
Dantonio: It’s rewarding for everybody. Me personally, I just watch and have a silent moment to myself, with maybe a smirk or a smile. But in advertising, it’s on to the next one. It’s only 60 seconds, so it can only last for so long.

HLN: What’s it like to have your work watched and judged by millions of people?
Dantonio: Specifically for the Super Bowl, the pressure’s definitely on. But that’s something the team invites on. We like it. We’re competitors. We want to do the best.  You try to do something that’s universal, something that everyone -- no matter where they are, no matter their age, sex, gender, or race -- will feel. And this spot, in particular, brings joy to hopefully everybody who sees it.

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HLN: Do you think releasing the full ad before it airs takes away from the effect of it on Sunday?
Dantonio: Everything’s so digital and there’s so much attention and conversation about the Super Bowl and the commercials before hand, that putting it out early just gives you a better opportunity to be in more conversations earlier and to really go viral before the ad even airs. I think it’s smart. It gets a lot more eyes on it. It adds to it. And that’s Budweiser’s call; all kudos to them because there’s always the side that says, “Let’s wait for the big game and reveal it there.” But if you can make something that generates enough positivity before the game, when Sunday comes, everybody is going to be looking forward to seeing it.

HLN: This year’s ad is a continuation of last year’s, with the same Clydesdales and the same actor. Will there be a continuation of this story in future years?
Dantonio: Potentially. I don’t think we’ve thought down the road that far, to be honest. We just wanted to really personify the Clydesdales, and in this case, their new best bud, a puppy. That’s something that we continue to look for: How can we use these animals to tell really strong emotional stories that people everywhere have experienced in some way, shape or form.

YOUR TAKE: 30 best Super Bowl ads

HLN: If the storyline does continue, how will you trump it next year? I mean, there’s a puppy…
Dantonio: That’s something that we look forward to creatively, both at Budweiser and Anomaly. We’ll get the cues from them on what the next steps are and we’ll work together to come up with the best way to attack that thing. We accept that, we want it, we welcome the challenge and hopefully we can go a little bigger next year. 

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