Photo: Getty Images / Isaac Brekken
Psy, the South Korean global phenomenon who set social-media popularity records with his Gangnam Style YouTube music and dancing video, will star in a Super Bowl commercial for Wonderful Pistachios.The flashy commercial, filmed yesterday in North Hollywood, is the brand’s first Super Bowl ad and will be Psy’s first ad aired in the U.S.
“The Super Bowl is way too big for me,” jokes Psy (real name Jai-Sang Park). “I never dreamed of being a singer in America, so I of course never dreamed of being in a Super Bowl ad.”
Psy’s catchy, offbeat video poking fun at the upper-class lifestyle in South Korea has notched 1.1 billion YouTube views.
In the ad, Psy wears a pistachio-green suit and will display a special way to crack open pistachios.
Increasingly, advertisers in the Super Bowl, a pop culture event with social-media buzz, are latching onto pop culture figures guaranteed to garner more social-media chatter.
Beyoncé is the Big Game’s halftime singer. Supermodels including Kate Upton and Bar Refaeli are starring in other spots. And Psy has now been snatched up by a Super Bowl ad rookie eager for attention.
Will Psy be wonderful for pistachios? Pop culture experts say his appearance will draw lots of attention — but not necessarily the kind that Wonderful Pistachios wants.
“Pistachios will get a lot of attention for signing Psy, and when you’re in the pistachio business, that’s a good thing,” says pop culture guru Robert Thompson. “But Psy already is becoming an old joke.”
Consumers are desperately looking for fun, “and Psy is the royal court jester,” says futurist Watts Wacker. But Wacker thinks Psy is a one-trick pony. “He’ll end up as a Tiny Tim,” Wacker predicts, referring to the campy falsetto singer of the late ’60s.
However, executives at Wonderful Pistachios are ecstatic about signing Psy. “He’s penetrated the cultural consciousness of the United States,” says Marc Seguin, vice president of marketing for Wonderful Pistachios, the biggest nut brand for Paramount Farms. “We knew the Super Bowl would require something really special to stand out.”
The ultra-familiar song Gangnam Style will appear with different words in the 30-second commercial, Psy says. He says he’s also working on a new single that will be out soon.
This is the time of year that pistachio sales rocket, and most of that sales spurt is concentrated just a week or two before the Super Bowl, says Seguin. To nail home its relationship with Psy, the brand will place 50,000 pistachio displays with his image in supermarkets.
But Psy is clearly better known by young folks than old, says Thompson, who is a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University. Thompson says he did an informal poll. All but four of his 110 undergraduate students knew who Psy was. But when he asked 20 of his neighbours — older than 65 — if they knew Psy, the results were disastrous.
Only one did.
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