Off Brand

How Oatly Outsmarted the Super Bowl by Being as Annoying as Possible

The oat milk brand played meta-level advertising jujitsu

Rob Walker
Marker
Published in
3 min readFeb 10, 2021

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Oatly CEO Toni Petersson playing the keyboard in the middle of a field with a cup and carton of Oatly oat milk to his side.
Photo: Oatly

Ads are annoying. And every year a surprising number of Super Bowl ads are super-annoying. This weekend’s game was no exception, but one of the most annoying ads took things to a new level — by commoditizing everyone else’s annoyance.

The ad consists of Oatly CEO Toni Petersson playing a keyboard alone in a field, singing a ridiculous ditty about his company’s oat milk. “It’s like milk, but made for humans,” he sings. “Wow, wow, no cow.” Petersson has a kind of annoying alt-dad look, and an undeniably annoying singing voice. So the ad is very annoying, seeming to last much longer than its 30-second slot. And it was immediately one of the most-despised ads of the game, which is saying something.

Predictably, the Twitterati could not resist declaring their annoyance, thus obediently amplifying the ad’s impact in the process. But that was just the beginning of Oatly’s marketing jujitsu.

Clearly, the outpouring of haterade was anticipated because Oatly was ready with a surprising announcement via social media: It was giving away 500 T-shirts featuring a depiction of Petersson at his keyboard, over the words “I totally hated that Oatly commercial.” According to Insider, they were gone in five minutes.

Thus the real winner of hating on Oatly’s ad was… Oatly.

This is an impressive feat under any circumstance, but it’s a particularly cunning move for Oatly because it’s totally on-brand: Oatly itself is annoying — somehow healthy and a status symbol at the same time. Not only does it taste better than other milk substitutes (fans will…

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