Bell’s Super Bowl spot was not actually a horror show

Who: Bell, with Leo Burnett for strategy and creative; Soft Citizen for production (directed by Aircastle); Saints for editing, Alter Ego for colour, media by Media Experts.

What: “The Rental,” a new TV spot that uses a clever misdirect to show how scary it is to have something other than Bell Fibe internet in your home.

When & Where: The campaign launched during the Super Bowl with 60-, 30- and 15-second versions. The ad is currently running on TV, as well as online video and in cinema, with other elements coming soon.

Why: Bell has been touting the speed and quality of its Fibe internet service for some time, but when all of the internet providers make similar claims, it’s even more important to come up with ideas and insights that resonate with consumers.

The key message has been the same for a while, but the goal is to come up with fresh ideas to communicate it. “The challenge for us is always it’s a similar brief,” said group creative director Marcus Sagar. “It’s really fast internet: go.”

“It’s about just trying to find a breakthrough way to resonate with people in a new a new light,” added group account director Kristine Black.

How: The ad opens with a family of four unloading their luggage at an apparent vacation home. “Welcome to your home for the next two weeks,” says the dad. At first all four are thrilled with the accommodation, but the mood changes about halfway through. “Something’s wrong,” says the distraught wife staring at her tablet screen. When the daughter cries out, the mom and dad race upstairs to discover the house’s horrific flaw: “They. Have. Cable. Internet,” says the son, at which point all four flee the house in a panic.

“Once you’re used to Bell pure fibre internet, anything else is terrifying,” says a voiceover.

“I’m always a fan of something that’s really kind of simple but executed well,” said Sage.

“It was just a nice insight, and then a really well written script. And then when we pitched it to (directing team) AirCastle… they just took it and ran with it,” said Sagar. “They said we need to do this like real horror, take all those tropes, …. and really dial it up.”

Was it always for the Super Bowl? Not really. The agency was briefed late last year, and the spot was shot early this year. Only after the client saw the treatment did they start talking Super Bowl. “[The clients] saw the potential, and they saw the humour in taking the idea that this could be a legit horror, and then the twist is, you know, they have cable internet kind of pulling the rug out from under it,” said Sagar.

They realized they had a new way to share the existing message, said Black. “Why not premiere during the Super Bowl,” she said. “New eyes, fresh eyes, with new entertainment.”

The ad has extra cultural relevance at the moment because of the popularity of shows like The Watcher, explained Black.

At the same time, vacation rental brands like VRBO and Airbnb are advertising regularly on TV (the former also ran a spot during Sunday’s Super Bowl telecast).

On first viewing, the spot could easily be mistaken for a VRBO ad (raises hand), though on closer inspection, the clue of Bell blue stripes are visible on the luggage when the family arrives. Those “Bellaments,” as the agency calls Bell brand elements, are only on the luggage because they are a Bell family, but nowhere else because the house—as beautiful as it is—is not a Bell house.

David Brown