BLOUNTVILLE — If you’re watching tonight’s Super Bowl for the advertisements rather than the game, pay close attention during the second quarter.
That’s when you can catch Charlie Sheen, Alex Rodriguez and Mr. Peanut in an action-packed commercial for Planters Nuts. Though she can’t be seen in the ad, Blountville native Mimia Johnson was behind the scenes, overseeing the making of the commercial from start to finish.
“It’s a really big deal in the advertising world to make one, because it costs so much money,” Johnson said. “The average buy for a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl is between $4 and $5 million, and that’s just the price to run the ad. That doesn’t even include how much it costs to make the ad and pay the celebrities and the rights to the music and those kinds of things. It’s almost like making a mini-movie that 111 million people are going to see all at one time, which is pretty incredible and mind-boggling.”
Johnson was born and raised in the Indian Springs community and graduated from Sullivan Central High School. A former board member for INK: News for Teens, a previous feature of the Times News, Johnson said she’s always been interested in communication, though more from an art and design standpoint.
That led her to enroll in Savannah College of Art and Design, also known as SCAD. She earned a degree in illustration and advertising design and has worked for various advertising agencies in San Francisco, New York City and Denver.
She currently serves as a creative director for VaynerMedia and splits her time between Denver and New York City. Though she’s previously worked on commercials for well-known brands like Cigna and Noosa Yoghurt, this is her first time overseeing a Super Bowl commercial.
“That’s what’s really exciting about it is Super Bowl commercials are really the only advertising that people actually want to watch,” Johnson said. “Now the Super Bowl’s almost to the point where people don’t even watch the game; they really just watch it for the ads just to see what will be the funniest or the craziest or the most over-the-top.”
Making the ad
As creative director, Johnson oversaw the writing and artistic aspects of the commercial, including writing the script, coming up with the action, hiring a director and editing the final product. She worked with a team to create the initial idea for the commercial based on one request from Planters.
“Back in about October, essentially Planters came to us with the ask of, ‘We want to make a Super Bowl ad, and the only goal is we want people to think Mr. Peanut is cool and interesting and relevant again,’ ” Johnson said. “Mr. Peanut is a 103-year-old nut; he’s been around for a very long time, and people think of him as old. … So they came to us and said, ‘We just want people to think he’s cool and modern again.’ ”
The team started with 10 or 15 scripts before zeroing in on the idea of incorporating the Planters NUTMobile, a real vehicle that crosses the country every year.
“We finally landed with this idea that Mr. Peanut has this nut-mergency alarm that goes off anytime anybody’s about to have a really sad snack,” Johnson said. “So as soon as that nut-mergency alarm goes off, he’s in his NUTMobile racing across town to save you from a sad snack.”
Charlie Sheen and Alex Rodriguez weren’t part of the original plans for the commercial, Johnson said, but both ended up expressing interest and excitement about being included. The commercial was filmed Jan. 8-10, followed by the editing and animation of Mr. Peanut.
Though she hopes to do more Super Bowl commercials, Johnson said she’s still feeling “honored and excited” to have been a part of this one.
“I would love to do more in the future, but I think this one is going to be pretty hard to top,” Johnson said. “When you have a 103-year-old celebrity with A-Rod and Charlie Sheen … I’m not sure how you top it.”
For other creatives with small-town roots, Johnson offered one piece of advice.
“This is an option for your career,” Johnson said. “This is a thing you can do in life, and I never would have thought growing up in Blountville and going to Central that I would make a Super Bowl commercial someday.”
The 30-second version of the commercial will air during the Super Bowl, but an extended cut is also available on Mr. Peanut’s YouTube channel.