Greenlight debuts Super Bowl ad with Modern Family actor Ty Burrell

It isn’t always easy for parents to teach their kids about money. Greenlight has embarked on a mission to change that. In its first ever Super Bowl ad, the company has teamed up with one of America’s favorite TV dads to prove to viewers that financial education doesn’t have to be boring.

Greenlight Financial Technology has set out to achieve what some would consider to be a daunting task: making it easy (and maybe even fun) for parents to teach their kids about financial literacy. Founded in 2017, the platform now has around 5 million users. This year, the company has decided that it’s ready to level-up by debuting first-ever Super Bowl ad – titled ’I’ll Take It’ – which features Modern Family star Ty Burrell.

“We’re the category leader and really the category creator,” says Rachel Hamilton, chief marketing officer at Greenlight. “[We’re] excited to extend that lead and increase our awareness with the Super Bowl ad.”

In the ad, Burrell plays himself – or rather, in Burrell’s words, “a slightly exaggerated version of myself, which is a semi-idiot who makes terrible financial decisions”. The 30-second spot shows Burrell navigating a series of comically absurd transactions with his characteristic carefree attitude, and all the foresight of a four-year-old. A yacht bearing the disconcerting name of ’Tytanic’? A complete medieval suit of armor? An animatronic replica of himself? Jetpack? Winged pegasus? Our lovable semi-idiot responds to each offer with three fateful words: “I’ll take it.”

The ad culminates with a scene in which Burrell’s character, who by that point has truly abandoned all reason, is walking beside a display of high-end sneakers, holding a phone to one ear, pointing randomly at shoes, and rattling off “I’ll-take-its” like a kid in a candy store. He freezes suddenly and says into his phone: “What do you mean I’m broke?” It’s at that point that the camera cuts to a father and two young kids, sitting on a bench nearby and watching Burrell with something in between fascination and pity. “And that’s why mom and I use Greenlight to teach you about money,” the man says to the two kids, who nod dutifully.

There are a few key ingredients that may help this ad resonate among viewers. There’s humor, of course, which is arguably the most tried-and-true ingredient of a successful Super Bowl ad. Then there’s the star of the ad, an actor who is easily recognizable to a large swathe of the country and whose character on Modern Family, Phil Dunphy, is beloved for his irreverence and adorable cluelessness. Burrell exhibits those same traits in the new Greenlight ad, except in this case his character’s trademark aloofness is centered specifically on financial decisions, leading him inevitably to bankruptcy. Which leads us to the third key ingredient baked into the new ad: relevance to real-world problems that many people have actually experienced. While most of us have not made a snap decision to purchase a hot air balloon with a huge photographic rendering of our likeness emblazoned upon the canvas (as Burrell does in the ad), most of us have at one point or another made a financial decision that we later regret, or have at least struggled to stick to a long-term budget. And when those kinds of financial missteps happen in reality, it’s usually the opposite of funny.

The new ad was produced in collaboration with Haymaker, an agency based in Los Angeles. The two companies had partnered together for a previous campaign, which Hamilton says made Haymaker a natural choice to spearhead the new Super Bowl ad. “We were lucky to be able to say: ‘OK, we can do this because we know who we’re going to work with, and that they’re going to create something phenomenal.’”

One of the reasons that some people struggle to teach themselves or their family members about financial literacy is because the subject matter is often perceived as being unpalatably technical or boring. Jay Kamath, founder and chief creative officer at Haymaker, says that one of the goals with the new ad was to reconceptualize that popular negative image of financial education and frame it in a new light – as something that can be accessible and enjoyable for the whole family. “Finance can be very intimidating for people,” says Kamath. “It’s a topic that a lot of people don’t talk about, and the topic of money can be very taboo within families. So this seems like the best time to give people a prompt to talk about it, but in a way that’s entertaining and fun, through someone who is as hilarious as Ty Burrell.”

The Super Bowl’s massive audience makes it the ideal advertising setting for any brand. But Hamilton says that advertising during sporting events more generally has been one of the key strategies behind Greenlight’s success. “As we considered the opportunity of the Super Bowl, [we were] fortunate to have good data around our TV program and our advertising broadly, [and] had seen sports work really well for us. We’re looking to reach the parent, but we know that with live sports events, oftentimes you’ve got families watching together, the parents are there with their kids, it’s just a good way to reach parents, a good way to capture attention with live viewing and so some of that data helped us get comfortable taking this step.” And it’s no small step to take – securing a 30-second spot in this year’s Super Bowl reportedly costs around $6.5m.

The new ad will soon be supplemented with three additional videos, also starring Burrell, which will highlight how parents can use Greenlight to teach their kids about money. The company will also partner with Burrell to launch a ’TikTok challenge’ aimed at encouraging viewers to start conversations about finances within their families and communities. “Designed to be fun yet educational, the digital and social campaign extensions will launch in the days following the Big Game to continue reaching many more families,” Greenlight said in a statement.

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