Mint Mobile CMO on mocking competitors’ inflation fees and why Ryan Reynolds is ‘jet fuel’ for the brand
Mint Mobile’s newest campaign chaffs competitors’ “economic adjustment” fees in Ryan Reynolds’ signature comedic style. It’s emblematic of an underlying philosophy that drives Mint Mobile’s marketing efforts and Reynolds’ production firm Maximum Effort – one that seeks to bottle the zeitgeist at speed.
Mint Mobile, the telecoms company backed – and fronted – by actor and advertising golden child Ryan Reynolds, has unveiled its latest stunt. Poking fun at competitors such as Verizon and AT&T that have in recent months increased wireless prices and rolled out new tariff fees for “economic adjustment” purposes, Mint is announcing a “deflation” campaign. The company will offer all of its wireless plans – including those with unlimited data – for just $15 per month for the first three months. The promotion will run from today through July 5.
To promote the deal, the brand has rolled out a 30-second spot starring Reynolds, created by his production company Maximum Effort (which was last summer acquired by connected TV [CTV] firm MNTN). The video is as cheeky as ever, made in the same style as other recent marketing efforts by the brand; it’s driven by sharp writing and Reynolds’ signature deadpan comedic delivery. “At Mint Mobile, we like to do the opposite of what big wireless does,” says Reynolds in the ad. “They put their names in arenas – we put ours on my lower back. So, naturally, when they announced they’d be raising prices due to inflation, we decided to deflate our prices due to not hating you.”
The move reflects the brand’s broader approach to marketing – one rooted in Reynold’s irreverent, comedic style and driven by the notion of what Maximum Effort calls ‘fastvertising.’ ‘Fastvertising,’ according to Mint Mobile’s chief marketing officer Aron North, “means a wholesale change in the way you do marketing – you have to be fast, you have to be nimble.”
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) June 15, 2022
North, who has been with the company since 2016 – just after Mint was spun out of Ultra Mobile – previously served as director of advertising and branded content at Taco Bell. He also spent a number of years working on the agency side, so he’s developed a relatively deep understanding of the marketing space.
He suggests that most brands’ approach to ad production is radically different from Mint’s. “Social media has allowed people to ... [activate campaigns] really quick, but production has been quite challenging to get at speed,” he says. As an example, North explains that in his time at Taco Bell, the brand created a stunt to airlift a taco truck to a part of Alaska so rural that “they use dogsleds in the winter to get around.” He describes the “scramble” that went into pulling it off. “It took us maybe a month and a half – that was absolute lightning speed.”
With Mint, says North, there’s no comparison. “With these guys, it’s so insane and awesome. The delivery vehicles and the methods in which you solve [problems] are just completely different. You don’t operate in meetings, in rounds of revisions [or get] lots of consolidated feedback; you work in text messages, you work in five-minute phone calls, you work with lots of unknowns that you just sort of continue to work through as the program gets done.”
So what is ‘fastvertising’ exactly?
To capture the fastvertising ethos, North recounts the story of producing a Mint ad with Dave Foley that debuted in February. It started with a simple tweet. “Dear @VancityReynolds if I switch to @Mintmobile can I be in one of your ads. I really enjoy them,” wrote the comedian to Reynolds. According to North, it was all gas and no brakes from there. “We picked it up on Twitter that afternoon. I didn’t even know it was happening, but I got a phone call from our agency saying, ‘We’re on our way to a set. I’m writing the script in the car. Are you good with this?’” The 40-second spot was created and launched in under 24 hours.
North, who is involved in all of Mint’s marketing efforts, is himself still surprised by how well the model works. Of course, a key ingredient is Reynolds himself, who, according to North, is fairly involved in the end-to-end creative process and “signs off on” all the big marketing ideas from the Mint and Maximum Effort teams.
“Ryan is jet fuel – there is no other way to describe it,” says North. “We bought a Super Bowl [spot in 2019] – we know what that expense looks like and what that yield and reach and impact is for the brand. When we launched with Ryan, we said, ‘It’ll be like having a Super Bowl event.’ Well, that’s not true. Everything we’ve done with Ryan has been bigger than our Super Bowl event – imagine having multiple Super Bowls ... every year. That’s the kind of impact he has on the brand.”
In many ways, it’s the actor’s personal brand and the perception of that brand that power the Mint Mobile brand. “His brand is incredibly healthy – it’s got a lot of trust, it’s got a lot of transparency,” says North. “He’s self-deprecating, humorous, a little vulgar. Those qualities, broadly, are also found in the Mint Mobile brand, because our archetype is an outlaw, a disrupter of the category. We’ve been able to take the things that have made us successful, tinker with them slightly to fit better with his brand, and really have them just take off.”
Is too much Ryan Reynolds a bad thing?
Of course, Reynolds is not only the face of Mint; he has also made countless appearances in recent years in TV ads for brands including Match, Kraft and his own brand Aviation American Gin. He’s been dubbed something of an adland darling, and will even be speaking at Cannes later this month.
When asked if he ever worries about overexposure on Reynolds’ part, however, North says it’s not a concern. “I’m very well aware of overexposure,” he notes. “Part of what makes [Reynolds] so great is the potency of the programs he’s executing. They’re breakthrough. They’re fun. They’re unique. They’re interesting. You can see it in the YouTube comments [with people saying], ‘Ryan is the only person who can write an ad that I want to watch.’ He can read culture better than anybody I know and he knows when to dial it up and dial it down. I don’t think there’s any real concern about people getting burnt out or tuned out. The content he’s creating is so relevant to the moment.”
North, for his part, is confident that Reynolds’ cultural cache – paired with Maximum Effort’s ‘fastvertising’ strategy – is helping to not only drive Mint Mobile’s business, but also to enliven a somewhat traditional category. “With the exception of T-Mobile and a lot of the work they did with John Legere, their old CEO, this is a very tired category. The last really good campaign was [Verizon’s] ‘Can you hear me now?’ campaign [from the early 2000s].” He calls the creative work in wireless space today “damn near atrocious.”
In a funny way, he says, this mediocrity makes it easier for Mint Mobile to differentiate itself. “We get to come in, and we’re presenting disruptive messaging from a disruptive brand. And the product actually delivers on the disruption as well, which is not always what you can say for some of the brands. The future is very bright for Mint Mobile in this category.”
Of course the new ‘deflation’ campaign, like everything else Mint does, was brought to life at breakneck speed – notwithstanding additional hoops that required jumping through in order to offer the promotion, including pricing changes, website updates and legal requirements. The idea was concepted on a Friday, May 27, and the scripts for the new spot were written over the weekend. The team took Monday off for Memorial Day and shot the ad the next day. “This is the kind of stuff that really has been breakthrough for us,” says North. “Any time we do a program with ‘fastvertising,’ it blows up in a great way.
And in spite of the many challenges of practicing ‘fastvertising’ at scale, North says it’s all worthwhile. “I’ve worked on programs that have 12-, 18- or 24-month timelines. This is stuff that is still really powerful for the brand and the organization in order to move the needle, but it gets done in [as little as] a day. It’s so fun. It’s super hard, but it’s so worth it. You get to see the fruits of your labor almost immediately.”
Reynolds was not made available for a comment.