With the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Super Bowl was bound to be different. And by different, we mean weird. From the 30,000 cardboard cut-out “fans” sprinkled throughout the stadium to the plainly odd commercials, football’s Big Night™ can best be summed up with a hearty, “WTF?” But it’s one commercial — Oatly’s CEO commercial — that has truly left us all collectively scratching our heads, wondering what in the capitalist hell we watched.
The commercial opens with a close-up of the company’s CEO, Toni Petersson. His eyes are shut and he’s looking towards the sky with an impassioned look on his face. Then he starts singing. Yes, in actual sing-song. “It’s like milk,” he begins. “But for humans.” As the camera pans out we realize that Petersson is also playing a keyboard (giving lots of Ross Geller “the sound” vibes) as he inexplicably stands in the middle of a meadow. “Wow! No cow!” Petersson continues to sing, as the camera pans to a carton and glass of Oatly milk expertly placed on the keyboard.
That’s it. That’s the entirety of the company's 30-second Super Bowl commercial. Here’s what a reported $5,500,000 will buy you:
But the reaction to the bizarre commercial seems to have been the company’s overall goal — they’re leaning all the way in to what appears to be a carefully crafted social media campaign. Following the commercial, the company’s front page of their website featured the ad front and center, along with a statement that reads: “Yeah, that was really our CEO singing on the Super Bowl. Maybe interrupting the second quarter so the world could experience Toni’s musical stylings about how oatmilk is like milk but made for humans wasn’t the most Super Bowl-ish idea ever, but on the other hand, our attempt to promote Toni’s singing skills to a wider audience actually got you to visit an oatmilk company website on the big day. Total success!” And on Instagram, the business is giving away “I totally hated that Oatly commercial” t-shirts.
The Swedish oat-drink company, founded in 1994, is no stranger to controversy. While the company claims to have created a plant-based drink as a way to combat climate change, last year the company sold a 10 percent stake in the business to a group spearheaded by Blackstone, an investment firm that donated $3 million to former President Donald Trump’s super PAC and was responsible for massive amounts of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
On the company’s website is a page that includes a “promise to be good,” which includes a disclaimer of sorts that reads, “We are not a perfect company, not even close, but our intentions are true. We would like to be judged by the good we do and not just the pretty words we say.”
After this year’s truly out there Super Bowl, the company can add “tone and pitch” to the list of ways we can all judge them, too.
Refinery29 reached out to Oatly for comment. We will update this story as we know more.