On Sunday, more than 100 million American viewers will see a Super Bowl TV advertisement that, at a cost of around $7 million to its purchaser, more than anything will display two of the biggest personal passions of David MacNeil: American manufacturing, and dogs.
MacNeil’s 45-second spot during Super Bowl LIII on CBS will promote both American-made WeatherTech auto accessories and the year-old non-toxic, canine-ergonomic PetComfort pet-feeding systems that also are manufactured in his complex in Bolingbrook, Illinois. It’s 15 seconds longer than his previous Super Bowl ads and star’s MacNeil’s own six-year-old golden retriever, Scout.
“We want to continue to remind people about WeatherTech and want to obviously introduce PetComfort,” MacNeil told Chief Executive. “So that’s why we went to a longer commercial. We didn’t want to compromise one over the other.”
Uniquely and successfully, at a total price pushing $25 million, the CEO of WeatherTech – the maker of premium-priced, customized floor mats and other accessories for vehicles – has turned Big Game advertising into an unapologetic platform for what matters most to him as an entrepreneur and an individual.
MacNeil is one of the biggest living examples of putting your money where your mouth is. Arguably, through Super Bowl advertisements, MacNeil’s individual concerns and point of view are more on display during the Big Game than those of any other human being and any other brand. And more people watch the Super Bowl than just about any other event on the planet.
Sure, Coca-Cola finds ways to opine about world peace and diversity through its regular Super Bowl advertisements; Fiat Chrysler always has a profound message that is expressed through at least one of its Big Game ads; Audi produced a groundbreaking narrative about gender parity a couple of years ago; and other brands find ways to present points of view, some of them poignant and some of them controversial, in individual spots in some years.
But there’s no other series of Super Bowl advertisements that has so reflected the priorities of one individual, in evolving ways, than WeatherTech’s TV ads beginning in 2014. And that’s just what MacNeil has wanted to accomplish.
“Supporting our fellow Americans with jobs, and using American raw materials and machinery, has been in fashion since the beginning,” MacNeil said. “It’s something we wholeheartedly believe in and have been supporting and promoting through a number of [presidential] administrations.”
When it comes specifically to made-in-the-USA backer President Trump, MacNeil said, “Anyone that’s supporting American manufacturing and creating American jobs – I’m happy with that message.”
Beginning in 2014 with his first Super Bowl ad, it was clear that MacNeil wanted to boost American manufacturing as well as build and celebrate the success of WeatherTech. As the ad depicted, scoffers believed he was wasting his time trying to make something like floor mats in the United States, given lower-priced competition from China and elsewhere.
MacNeil has silenced the doubters with a hugely successful brand that has benefited not only from a great reputation for quality but also from Super Bowl exposure and from other regular TV advertisements, expensive print ads in The Wall Street Journal, and other marketing tactics. His brand’s sales exceeded $400 million when he started, and presumably WeatherTech is generating far more than a half-billion dollars in annual sales by now.
MacNeil said it’s “too early to tell” whether Trump’s tariff battles with China and Europe have helped WeatherTech. But he’s clear that he’s “all in favor of a balance in international trade: I buy one thousand from you, and you buy one thousand from me, and life goes on and everyone is happy. But if I buy a million from you and you buy just ten from me, that’s unfair. And I think that’s where tariffs are a big help in leveling the playing field.”
He also disdains “predatory pricing from other countries where they want to knock one of our major industries out of business. Once that business in America is weakened to a point, or just gone, [imports] own the marketplace and can jack prices up.
“So I’m very much for a balance of international trade and whatever it takes to achieve that goal.”
Along the way, MacNeil has found varied but similar ways of presenting his basic message, including last year’s Big Game spot that depicted the construction of the factory expansion to accommodate PetComfort production, including erection of walls. A silly theme accused him of baiting viewers with an allegory for building “the wall” along America’s southern border.
This year’s Super Bowl ad, depicting Scout helping patrol the Bolingbrook factory floor, won’t be open to misinterpretation: MacNeil loves his dog and others, likes to see them eat and drink without the threat of toxins and other chemicals in foreign imports, is making a big new investment in manufacturing PetComfort – and wants to tell the world about what he’s doing.