How a 46-Person Agency Managed to Create 3 of the Year’s Biggest Super Bowl Ads

How a 46-Person Agency Managed to Create 3 of the Year’s Biggest Super Bowl Ads


Budweiser, Devour and Burger King all turned to David Miami

David Miami created Super Bowl LIII ads for Devour frozen foods, Burger King and Budweiser.

For most ad agency staffers, getting to work on a national Super Bowl ad is a career highlight few ever get to enjoy. Work on two or three of them, and you’re considered a creative veteran with one hell of an impressive portfolio.

But to create three national Super Bowl ads for the same game while working at an agency with just 46 employees?

That doesn’t happen. Except when it did this year for David Miami, a scrappy creative powerhouse that has consistently shown an ability to win highly competitive pitches and produce work beloved by clients and mass audiences alike. (The shop was named Adweek’s Breakthrough Agency of the Year for 2017, and the year prior, it produced the crowd-pleasing Heinz Super Bowl spot, Wiener Stampede.)

For Super Bowl LIII, the agency pulled off a phenomenal hat trick by being tasked with creating ads for Budweiser, Kraft-Heinz frozen-food brand Devour and Burger King.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the Budweiser ad about its commitment to renewable energy is currently the year’s most-watched Super Bowl spot released early on YouTube (where it has 14 million views), and the “uncensored” version of Devour’s ode to frozen food porn is No. 2 (with 12 million views).

Burger King’s Super Bowl ad, the brand’s first in 13 years, won’t be revealed until Sunday’s game, but given the chain’s widely recognized standing as one of the world’s best marketers of the moment, that spot is sure to be one of the night’s most buzzed-about.

(It should be noted that veteran agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners also has three national spots in this year’s Super Bowl, all for PepsiCo-owned brands: Doritos, seltzer brand Bubly and flagship Pepsi.)

Adweek caught up with several members of David Miami’s leadership team to find out how its Super Bowl streak came together and what the agency learned from the intense resource management challenges it faced in the months leading up to this Sunday’s big game.

The recurring themes? Minimizing bureaucracy, tapping into every talent in the building and fostering a constant flow of communication.

Freaking out but staying focused

“We freaked out. We definitely freaked out. Of course we did.”

That’s how Paulo Fogaca, managing director of David Miami and global COO of the Ogilvy-owned David network, candidly describes the agency’s reaction upon realizing it had landed not one, not two, but three national Super Bowl ads.

“We looked at each other at some point and said, ‘Is this way too much on our plate? Can we do this?’ But that’s sort of the story of how we work,” Fogaca says. “We take those risks, and not only from a creative standpoint. We could not believe we had that opportunity.”

Luckily for the sanity of David Miami staffers and their loved ones, the agency won the spots at a somewhat staggered pace across the second half of 2018, enabling the team to pitch, develop and produce the ads on a timeline that didn’t require too much overlap.

Budweiser’s agency selection process for this year’s wind power-focused Super Bowl ad began in earnest eight months ago with a competitive pitch among multiple agencies. David Miami won out, though the development process continued into November.

Here’s a look at how the ad turned out:

The Super Bowl spot for Kraft-Heinz brand Devour was also highly competitive, with the pitch coming to a head around August 2018 and David Miami claiming the win in September. The ad and its extended online version were shot in December.

The agency is more cryptic in discussing the Burger King ad and timeline due to the intense shroud of secrecy over what the spot will actually look like in the Super Bowl broadcast. But Fogaca says it was an idea “a couple years in the making” and that the team had long been waiting for the perfect opportunity to launch it. Clearly, Super Bowl LIII was determined to be that ideal moment.

“Luckily for us, they didn’t overlap too much,” says executive creative director Juan Javier Peña Plaza, “and that’s why we’re still alive.”

But there’s no escaping the fact that the final months of any year are going to be an extremely intense crunch time for producing a Super Bowl ad—much less three of them.

“At the end of the day, the final sprint of the fourth quarter, it was insane,” Fogaca says. “It was so hectic. But there was so much passion and excitement for it.”

It’s likely no surprise that a workload of three Super Bowl ads—on top of the ongoing client work David Miami was already producing for brands like Burger King—tested the limits of the small agency’s resource management. But the executives say it also revealed the strength in David’s collaborative spirit.

In the concepting phase, creative briefs were opened up to the entire creative department rather than just hand-picked teams, and other departments were invited to join the brainstorming process as well.

“I love to think that if you’re part of David, you have the platform to flourish and it doesn’t matter where you sit,” Fogaca says. “There’s true collaboration across departments.”

Admittedly, a lot of agencies say that, but as proof of the philosophy in action, David’s creative leadership noted that Carmen Rodriguez, the head of account management, came up with a Super Bowl ad idea that made it all the way to the final round of client review before another concept for the final spot was selected.

In discussing this open atmosphere across the agency, David’s leadership also takes pride in the diversity of its staffers and their backgrounds. Without being hampered by a homogeneous staff, David is able to spark a range of ideas in a relatively short amount of time, which resulted in starkly different concepts for all three of this year’s Super Bowl ads.

“I believe that the cultural diversity we have at David gives us the creative power to come up with ideas that travel and tap into cultural moments for our brands,” says Rodriguez, the account management chief. “That is the key to our success with the Super Bowl.”

If nothing else, Fogaca hopes other agencies will learn from David’s commitment to diversity and fostering strong chemistry across all its teams, rather than building walls and bureaucracies that only slow things down.

“Once you have the right culture and chemistry of talent and the right diversity,” he says, “you can make wonders. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 10-person agency or 2,000 people.”

Staying in constant contact

While building the right staff in advance is obviously key, keeping them organized under the intense pressures of multiple Super Bowl ads is its own daunting challenge.

For David Miami, the agency’s approach during this period (which ECD Peña Plaza describes as a “master class in resource allocation”)  has been a combination of  maximizing digital tools, encouraging face-to-face communication and leveraging every resource available in the agency’s global network.

In terms of tools, you’re likely not surprised to learn that collaborative software Slack was key. For David’s creative teams, it was a primary resource and invaluable hub of constant feedback.

Perhaps more surprisingly (unless you too work with relatively young professionals around the world), chat service WhatsApp was a constant lifeline connecting teams across David Miami and its offices in Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. David’s leadership says there was a WhatsApp group chat dedicated to each project and each production.

But many of the most important conversations happened face to face, a process enabled both by the agency’s culture of open communication and the fact the entire staff of David Miami only takes up two floors of one building.

“There was a lot of talk, a lot of hallway conversations,” Fogaca says. “I’m not in a 2,000-person agency where you need to book time to talk. We talk a lot. Sometimes we talk more than we should. In-person communication happens a lot at David.”

The David team doesn’t put much stock in leadership hierarchy, meaning that many staffers feel empowered to approach others without worrying about a chain of command.

“We’re a super horizontal agency,” Peña Plaza says. “Anyone can go to anyone. We don’t put up barriers, because that’s what makes things slow and keeps things from happening.”

All that utopian discussion of open work culture aside, though, there’s also one very practical reality that keeps a small agency like David Miami focused on creating truly successful Super Bowl ads: When you don’t have a bureaucracy, you don’t have anywhere to duck responsibility or hide if a project goes sour.

“When you’re smaller, you have to be more dedicated,” Peña Plaza says. “It’s up to you. No one else is going to solve it for you. And if you’re going to the Super bowl, all eyes are going to be on you and your team, and you have to deliver.”