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Behind the scenes of Klarna’s Super Bowl commercial debut starring Maya Rudolph

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

The Swedish buy-now-pay-later fintech unicorn Klarna kicked off its largest US marketing campaign to date at the Super Bowl last Sunday. The company’s Big Game commercial was all about its “Pay in 4” offering that enables customers to pay for their shopping in four interest-free payments, featuring actress and comedian Maya Rudolph as the “four quarter-sized cowboys” in a fantasy Klarna-styled Western town.

Klarna Super Bowl Ad with Maya Rudolph
Image source: Mirimar
“The campaign reflects Klarna’s brand philosophy of combining quirky wit and humor with a stylized aesthetic to create immersive new experiences to engage consumers. Our goal here was to showcase Klarna’s interest-free "Pay in 4" offering by bringing it to life literally in a fun and unexpected way.” David Sandstrom, CMO at Klarna

The idea behind Klarna’s “four quarter-sized cowboys” Super Bowl ad

Klarna’s Super Bowl ad campaign producer is the leading US creative studio Mirimar. In an exclusive interview for B&T, Mirimar’s co-founder John McKelvey shed some light on the creative process and the idea behind the “four quarter-sized cowboys” story plot.

“We decided that if we were going to grab the microphone and say one thing, it would be the ‘pay in four small payments’ offering, and that’s what really gave birth to the four quarter-sized cowboys.”

According to the agency’s other founder, Luke McKelvey, their ultimate goal was to capture Klarna’s unique brand essence in the ad.

“Klarna is quite unique…they have a really bold and unexpected aesthetic that is really considered down to the detail. They’re a payments company, so they certainly stand out in that category significantly in the way they present their brand.”

But this is easier said than done, especially when it comes to creating a commercial for what is considered to be the “world’s biggest stage”.

Super Bowl is undoubtedly one of the world’s most important sports and cultural events nowadays - this year, the Big Game hit more than 91mln online views. And with the average ad costing around the $5mln mark, there’s a great deal at stake for advertisers.

“There’s a lot more eyeballs, competition, expectation, celebrity talent involved. Symbolically, it’s a milestone for arriving at iconic American brand status,” said John.


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So, what makes a successful Super Bowl ad?

A successful Super Bowl ad is a balancing act between “entertainment and clarity”. At the end of the day, effective advertising is about connecting with your target audience whilst remaining true to your brand identity. But, this is the tricky bit about creating a Super Bowl ad.

Super Bowl offers unique access to an enormously varied audience, and whilst this is an opportunity, it is also a huge challenge. A large percentage of people watching the event most likely won’t be part of the audience that brands are trying to reach. So, the key to a successful Super Bowl ad is creating a message that remains true to a brand’s customer base whilst making it easy to understand for the rest of the audience.

78 percent of consumers look at Super Bowl ads as a source of entertainment, yet only 10 percent reported that Super Bowl ads actually influence them to buy advertisers’ products. Therefore, Super Bowl ads should serve as more of a reminder of the brand’s personality or brand awareness and less of a conversion tool.

For Mirimar, talent and creativity are at the centre of a successful Super Bowl commercial.

“Talent partnerships, no matter how unexpected, have to feel authentic. Celebrities are brands amongst themselves, so you have to really find a complementary dynamic to that,” John explained.

Thus, Maya Rudolph was seen as the perfect talent for Klarna’s first Super Bowl commercial.

“Talent was the biggest thing, and for us, being able to do something that played to Maya’s strengths was a real win,” added John.

Klarna Super Bowl Campaign Banner
Image source: Mirimar

Commenting on her Big Game debut, Maya said:

“It was an honour to work alongside three of the tiniest, most gifted, most incredible co-stars. Honestly, this might have been the best cast I’ve ever been a part of and I think the results speak for themselves. Thank you Klarna for the partnership on my first Big Game commercial.”

“As the largest sporting and advertising event of the year, the Big Game plays a huge role in mainstream culture. Given our incredible growth in the last year especially in the U.S, we also wanted to make a big statement of commitment to our U.S users as well as support for the overall retail industry.” David Sandstrom, CMO at Klarna

The Klarna app has seen some exponential growth over the past year. In December last year, the app reached 3.5 million monthly active users and recorded an all-time high in shopping volume in the same month. In addition, Klarna recorded an average of 60,000 new daily downloads in December and totalled nearly 4 million more app downloads than its direct competitors last year.


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