Dive Brief:

  • ABC viewers might feel a sense of déjà vu on Friday (Feb. 2) as Lay’s runs a marathon of ads inspired by the movie “Groundhog Day” and its titular holiday, according to a press release. Lay’s is the sole sponsor of the activation. 
  • The creative stars Stephen Tobolowsky, who played Ned in the 1993 comedy classic, as he repeatedly visits a checkout counter manned by Artemis Pebdani and slowly realizes he’s stuck in a time loop. Each of the eight custom spots promotes a different chip variant, and the ads will air a total of 75 times throughout the day.   
  • “Groundhog Lay’s” is the result of a collaboration between the snack marketer and Disney Advertising, Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort and Jimmy Kimmel’s Kimmelot creative studio. This is the first advertising deal of its kind for both Lay’s and ABC owner Disney.

Dive Insight:

Excessive ad frequency is a common gripe among viewers, but what if a campaign was structured around the concept? Lay’s and a raft of partners, including Ryan Reynolds’ buzzy Maximum Effort agency, are positioning repetition as an innovative media strategy, drawing on a beloved Bill Murray vehicle that depicts a hard-edged cynic softened up by having to live out the same day over and over again. 

While the Frito-Lay snack brand didn’t enlist Murray for the holiday-focused effort — Jeep beat it to the punch with a winning “Groundhog Day” Super Bowl campaign several years ago — the ads still tip a cap to their source of inspiration by giving the starring role to Tobolowsky, who plays persistent irritant Ned in the original film. 

The eight ads, running over four minutes in total, show Tobolowsky growing increasingly aware and distressed by his time-loop predicament as he brings different Frito-Lay chips to the checkout line and experiences the same conversation about a broken register with Pebdani, an actor consumers may be familiar with from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” When Tobolowsky finally breaks down and asks if he’s ever getting out of the hellish situation, Pebdani responds by asking if he even knows how many Lay’s flavors there are, implying he will continue revisiting his checkout nightmare for every chip variant available. 

Lay’s slate of spots will run 75 times on Groundhog Day, accounting for a full third of ABC’s commercial inventory. The ads will appear around programs including “Good Morning America,” “GMA3,” “General Hospital,” “Shark Tank,” “20/20” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” as well as during AMC’s marathon broadcasts of the “Groundhog Day” movie. To drive digital engagement, the campaign will extend to YouTube and Hulu for an additional four weeks with the aid of targeting and frequency tools. 

While many TV buys are slated months in advance via upfront deals, “Groundhog Lay’s” came together in just two weeks based on a pitch from Maximum Effort. The celebrity-backed agency, a regular Kimmelot collaborator, has developed a reputation for jumping quickly on cultural discussions and flipping them into self-referential marketing.


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