In small towns word travels fast, so it was no surprise that when a movie star was spotted shooting a Super Bowl commercial in the southeastern Minnesota city of Winona details leaked earlier than planned.
On Thursday, weeks after word got out that actress Winona Ryder might have filmed a Super Bowl ad in her namesake city, website building and hosting company Squarespace confirmed Ryder will be the star of its 30-second spot set to air during the Feb. 2 game.
"I think Winona represents a lot of towns that have a lot going on, and a lot of creative energy and great places," Ryder said, in a just-released behind-the-scenes video on the ad. "I'm excited to see Squarespace be interested in those small businesses. I just think it's a really cool project."
The 30-second spot will air between the first and second quarters of the game.
No other local companies or advertising agencies have announced their involvement in the production of national Super Bowl ads as of Friday. However, Minneapolis communications agency Padilla is handling the public relations for Avocados From Mexico's ad campaign, and ad agency Colle McVoy is running a 60-second regional ad for CHS Inc. and reruns of ads for subsidiary Cenex.
The Super Bowl has always been a spectacle for not just football enthusiasts but also advertisers as brands spend millions to gain the attention of consumers, often enlisting the talent of celebrities and featuring outlandish video concepts. According to a Bloomberg report, Fox Sports sold out its inventory of Super Bowl ads in November, with prices for 30-second spots going as high as a record $5.6 million.
If the behind-the-scenes video is any indicator, Squarespace might take a more subdued approach with its spot and go with a colloquial message about the importance of small businesses. The video, called "Winona Goes Home," features a collection of Winona residents chatting about the rumors of Ryder visiting the town.
Ryder, wearing a fur winter hat and a fuzzy sweater, says she was born in the city. Her mother had spotted a pamphlet in a local laundromat that talked about the legend of Winona, likely referring to the tale of Princess Wenonah, who was believed to be a Sioux woman who threw herself off a cliff in protest of an unwanted arranged marriage.
"[My mother] picked it up, which I think induced her labor of me," Ryder said, as she sat in what looks to be the Bryant-Lake Bowl in south Minneapolis.
In a photo provided by Squarespace from the commercial, it appears Ryder also visited Mickey's Diner on W. 7th Street in St. Paul. Squarespace's ad is its sixth Super Bowl campaign.
"We sent Winona back to her hometown and namesake of Winona, Minn., to learn more about the city of Winona and shed a spotlight on Small Town, USA," wrote Squarespace spokeswoman Ashley Calame, in an e-mail to the Star Tribune.
Squarespace has featured famous actors like Keanu Reeves in its ads before, but this year's spot diverts from the normal tone of its commercials, said Peter Nicholson, chief creative officer of Minneapolis ad agency Periscope.
"It seems like this one is a little bit more down-to-earth than what they have done in the past," he said.
A week before the Big Game, many brands haven't released their full ads so plenty of surprises are likely.
"By this time last year you had already seen it," Nicholson said.
From the teasers Nicholson has seen, he said it looks like brands this year are producing the typical comedic ads sprinkled with celebrity cameos as companies try to be "lighthearted and fun."
"The election year coupled with a little bit of uncertainty about the economy … Those are heavy things weighing down on us," said Mike Caguin, chief creative officer for ad agency Colle McVoy, explaining why advertisers are steering clear of ads on serious topics.
Doritos has released teasers featuring rapper Lil Nas X and actor Sam Elliott in Wild West get-ups. Avocados From Mexico ran a teaser of actress Molly Ringwald prepping an avocado in the dressing room before its TV spot.
Snack brand Planters set social media afire this week with a teaser killing its mascot Mr. Peanut, who dies after letting go of a breaking tree branch to save actors Matt Walsh and Wesley Snipes. Planters plans to air a funeral for Mr. Peanut in a 30-second spot in the third quarter.
One unusual element is that President Donald Trump and presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg will run dueling, 60-second political ads during the game.
"Generally speaking," Caguin said, "people will say they were turned off by political advertising in general … but I think [the spots] will serve their purpose with connecting with people."
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495 Twitter: @nicolenorfleet