Michael Cera uses his acting skills to send-up skincare brand CeraVe in popular Super Bowl ad

Michael Cera uses his acting skills to send-up skincare brand CeraVe in popular Super Bowl ad

Skincare brand CeraVe's foray into the Super Bowl advertising arena during Super Bowl LVIII was in many ways a send-up of the same self-indulgent campaigns the NfL’s commercial breaks often invite.

With the assistance of WPP and Ogilvy PR North America, the brand embarked on a quirky and immersive campaign featuring the Knocked Up star. The campaign sees Cera convincingly embody the role of a self-important social media influencer, taking credit for founding the brand that bears his namesake.

What does Michael Cera have to do with CeraVe?

In the weeks leading up to the NFL championship, CeraVe teased its Super Bowl ad through a multi-platform approach, embracing eccentricity across Instagram, influencer engagements, and podcast appearances. Rather than keeping the surprise under wraps until game day, the brand leaned into the peculiar by asking the question, "What does Michael Cera have to do with CeraVe?". This unconventional strategy piqued curiosity and primed audiences for the big – if fairly ludicrous - reveal.

The culmination of the campaign was the launch of iamcerave.com and a whimsical video featuring Cera as the purported mastermind behind the brand. Shot in a style akin to those dreamy perfume commercials of days gone by, the creative showcases Cera in various scenarios, including conversing with a narwhal and serving as his own masseuse, all while urging consumers to let his "cream hydrate you." However, the brand cleverly countered Cera's claims by affirming its long-standing collaboration with dermatologists in product development.

On game day, a condensed version of Cera's video was unveiled, revealing it as his pitch to an unamused CeraVe board. Despite its brevity, the spot left a lasting impression and was hailed as one of the most effective Super Bowl campaigns on TikTok.

The genesis of the Cera-CeraVe connection stemmed from social listening efforts by Ogilvy, which identified a subtle association between the actor and the brand. Building on the similarity in names, the campaign ingeniously leveraged Cera as a symbol of authenticity in the face of copycat competitors.

Our take

On paper, CeraVe’s advert sounds a bit tenuous, but WPP nails the execution. I even had the advert sent to me unprompted by a friend who knows nothing of life reviewing adverts.

CeraVe is known for being a low-key, no-frills skincare essential. A product that just sort of does what it’s meant to do. So, by making fun of itself, and simultaneously its more pretentious competitor brands (the whispering of the brand name is a nice touch), the advert makes you chuckle, while subtlety drawing attention to its real USP: its simplicity. In doing so, the advert fosters a sense of co-ownership with its audience, amplifying the impact of its high stakes Super Bowl debut.

CeraVe’s comedy license is further validated by the fact that it doesn’t have a huge or particularly memorable brand identity. This allows the advert to have a surface-level believability, tricking viewers momentarily: adding to the humour. Cera himself also deserves credit for his amusingly smug, patronising tone.

By deliberately showing what an over-the-top example of ‘brand stretch’ might look like, CeraVe is marketing itself not as what it is, but more as what it’s not

Very on brand. Very on trend.

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