If there's one question you were probably asking yourself, or maybe wondering aloud with friends and family during the Super Bowl this year, it very well may have been, "Is this a Tide ad?" That's because Stranger Things star David Harbour starred in a series of ads that initially made viewers question whether or not literally every ad aired during the Super Bowl was a Tide ad. And, based on the response to the ads online, it seems to have worked. Now, Harbour has revealed some of what went into making these ads and how he got involved. Here's what the 42-year-old actor had to say about why the role in these Tide ads appealed to him in the first place.
"I liked the idea. It's wildly, I don't want to use the word cynical, but it's wildly self-aware. I think that's hilarious, just the fact that you have this character who's sort of this Rod Serling of the Twilight Zone of advertising, coming in and being like, 'Wow, maybe every ad is like a Tide ad!' He pops up in all of these different ads to kind of reveal to you that what you think you're watching is not actually what you're watching. ... On one hand, he's sort of omniscient, kind of a God character who floats throughout the Super Bowl, gets involved in these scenarios, gets absurd in them and plays that role as well. Like ... if I'm in a pharma ad, I'll act like a fucking idiot or whatever. I can get a little hoity toity about this stuff, but I liken him almost as a Greek god like Apollo who comes down and plays with the mortals and then goes back to his castle and talks about what they're doing."
Harbour added, when speaking about the character he plays in these Tide Super Bowl ads, "I think he's a bit psychotic, to be honest. That's what I love about him. He's just like a trickster. That's why I relate him to a Greek god. He's like Hermes or like a coyote in Native American literature. He's like this trickster artist who just shows up and messes with whatever pool he's in and ripples the waves in real ways." The Tide ads ranged from spoofing diamond ads, mattress ads, pharmaceutical ads, an Old Spice ad and everything in between. By setting up that literally everything could be a Tide ad early on, it really did leave viewers guessing for the duration of the big game. David Harbour reveals that he was personally surprise that he wound up getting hired for the gig.
"That's what's fun. Because it's Tide, it's really fun for Tide to like go into that area, which is why I was gratified they chose me. I understand a brand like a whiskey choosing me ... but the fact that it's Tide and it's this big detergent brand, 'We want to get a little whacky. We want this dude from Stranger Things who's a little whacky.' I'm not the nicest dude on that show, but I've got a big heart. So it's got all those colors, so I think that's what's fun to do with mainstream brand, and I really like to see mainstream brands take risks like that and go for more authenticity instead of pandering. And hopefully I can bring it to this commercial. Hopefully we can make a genuinely funny little art movie."
David Harbour has become something of a sensation on the internet over the last year or so. He's very active with his fanbase on social media and regularly engages with his fans in unique ways. While discussing his Tide ads, he reveals that he didn't approach this role any differently than something like Stranger Things or the upcoming Hellboy. That is to say, he doesn't approach it differently when thinking about the audience, as he has a tremendous amount of respect for them.
"Not at all. In fact, the only thing I think about all my audiences is that they are smarter than me, funnier than me, more emotionally deep than me. And so I'm trying to reach them with my best, my funniest, my subtlest. But in terms of the world, I don't pander, I don't cater. I don't anything. I'm just trying to give the best human expression that I can to any particular genre, which could be comedy, could be drama, could be horror, could be thriller. But I'm just trying to give the best version of that. There is actually no consideration even in terms of cultural anything. To me, it's a very big audience, a very different audience, but I'm just doing what I'm doing, which is trying to touch and affect people. That doesn't change no matter who I'm trying to do it with."
Indeed, David Harbour is proving that there's something magnetic about his presence no matter what the role, be it in a hit Netflix series or some hilarious Super Bowl commercials. Let's just hope the new Hellboy movie turns out as good as these Tide ads. In case you missed them, you can check out all of the ads stitched together for yourself below. You can also check out the full Q&A with David Harbour via Ad Week.