As an avid sports fan, Lincoln Boehm was almost always in front of a TV for the Super Bowl, excited to see the action on the field on the NFL’s biggest stage. To him, the commercials didn’t matter much.
Recently, though, his priorities have changed. On Sunday, when he sits down to watch the Denver Broncos battle the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, he’ll be paying closer attention to the ads.
“Now I probably care more about watching those than the game,” he said. “It’s not even that I love watching commercials. It’s just, being privy to what goes into making a commercial and a Super Bowl commercial specifically, the crazy process that it is, with these rushed timelines, it’s fun to see what agencies and brands pulled it off and which fell short.”
Boehm has learned a thing or two about the world behind brand messaging, particularly when it comes to the most-watched American sporting event. The Santa Monica High School alumnus worked on a spot that aired in the runup to the Super Bowl two years ago, a highlight of his blossoming career as an advertising copywriter.
Boehm, who now lives in New York, has written ads for major brands like Miller Lite and Tide. His two latest projects as an employee at Droga5 involve campaigns for sports apparel company Under Armour and the YMCA. And he was twice included on the Business Insider list of the 30 most creative people in advertising under 30, first in 2012 and again in 2014.
Boehm wasn’t interested in advertising as he graduated in 2006 from Samohi, where he was an editor at the student newspaper and a member of the track and field team. As an English major at the University of Michigan, he landed an internship with Conan O’Brien’s show in New York. He then moved back to Southern California to stay with O’Brien’s team as an monologue writing assistant.
“I got into advertising because half of the writers on Conan’s staff had come from advertising backgrounds,” he said. “That’s kind of how I got put in touch with ads people and started to think about advertising as an option.
“I love comedy, and I love writing comedy, but that’s not all that I like. I like writing these epic human stories. It’s nice to be able to bounce back and forth between something that’s serious and something’s that’s stupid and funny. That’s the luxury I’ve found. You get a full brain workout.”
Boehm returned to New York to pursue advertising following the “Tonight Show” conflict involving O’Brien and Jay Leno. He worked on a Kobe Bryant campaign during his time as a copywriter with R/GA before starting at Saatchi & Saatchi, where he was given one of his most memorable assignments.
Asked to come up with an NFL-related spot for Duracell about the triumph of the human spirit, Boehm remembered hearing about a deaf UCLA football player from several Samohi friends who attended the university. He soon found out that the player, Derrick Coleman, had made it to the NFL as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
The final product compiles others’ doubts about Coleman before the narration, “But I’ve been deaf since I was 3, so I didn’t listen.”
“I wrote the script one night at the office,” said Boehm, who ended up rooting for the Seahawks as they worked towards a Super Bowl championship in 2014. “I had read a bunch about him, watched every news clip about him and his story. I tried to put myself in his shoes. The whole time, I wanted it to be first-person point of view. … He told me that he got very emotional reading the script for the first time.”
To Boehm, there’s no formula for a successful ad. He said his favorite Super Bowl commercial from the last five years is an Axe body spray spot in which a hunky lifeguard rescues a woman in the ocean only to be ditched for an astronaut in uniform who is walking nearby.
The best commercials, he said, tap into deep cultural veins.
“It’s something that’s giving people something they’ve been craving,” he said. “That could be a really dumb laugh making fun of something in the news, or it could be a really emotional story that people hadn’t heard before.
“It’s the stuff that’s self-aware that does pretty well on Super Bowl Sunday. It knows what people want to hear, it knows what people need and it’s filling some void.”