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89 | SaaS at the Superbowl: has B2B creativity finally made the grade?

25 min listen

When was the last time a B2B ad called for an amphitheatre, a swimming pool and A-list green room riders?

We need to talk about HR Rockstars, Workday’s 60-second TV spot at this year’s Superbowl. And who better to give us the inside scoop than Erik Petersen, Workday’s Senior Director of Brand and Advertising. 

Listen to this episode for a walkthrough of the production fun, a sign of how far b2b has come, and a lesson on how to extend one great idea throughout the B2B funnel.

And of course the big question: was it worth it? Erik shares the stats (spoiler: 4 billion PR impressions).



View the full transcript here

89 | SaaS at the Superbowl: has B2B creativity finally made the grade?

Jon Busby: Hello, and welcome to the very first spinoff from the Tech Marketing podcast. In collaboration with the Association of National Advertisers, we are thrilled to bring you the masters of B2B marketing. Get ready now as we spin through some fantastic episodes covering the latest and B2B thinking, from AI to advertising analytics, to attribution alignment, and so much more.

When was the last time a B2B ad? Called for an amphitheatre, a swimming pool, an A-list, a green room and riders. We need to talk about HR Rockstars Workday's 62nd TVB spot at this year's Super Bowl. And who better to give us the inside scoop than Eric Peterson, Workday's, senior director of brand and advertising.

Listen to this episode for a walkthrough of the production fun and a sign of how far B2B has come. A lesson for how you can extend one great idea throughout your entire funnel, and not just involve your potential prospects, but your customers as well. Thank you very much for joining us on the Tech Marketing Podcast, Eric.

Erik Petersen: Yeah, thank you. Excited to be here. Yeah.

Jon Busby: So today we're gonna be talking really about how you've rocked the marketing world with your full funnel Symphony. So I can't wait to dive into this and understand how, if you have not seen the advert, really our listeners should pause now and go and watch the Wonderful Advert.

I've watched it multiple times, but let's go a little bit back about your story with Workday, about how you've landed in the position you are in. You've held a variety of different. Roles from agencies through to big tech, such as Workday. How did you land at Workday, and what was your memory of the change moving from agency to client side?

Erik Petersen: Yeah, as you mentioned, I'd spent most of my career on the agency side. I'd done B2B and B2C accounts, and I saw posting for the opportunity at work. Workday and I'd known a couple people that had worked with them over the years and spoke quite highly of them. So I reached out and ultimately got connected with Workday and I really just hit it off with a few of them, including the hiring manager, Jean Bode- Grey.

Jean and I just really got on and they had been doing some great marketing, great advertising, and it sounded like a terrific opportunity. And that was a little over two years ago.

Jon Busby: Wow. And with some of our. In fact it's becoming incredibly important with the new generation now coming in to organizations.

Was there something, is there anything around the culture that, that you felt when you joined, what was it that stood out to you?

Erik Petersen: Yeah, absolutely. They had, Workday had really come up as a human capital management enterprise software. And what that meant was that they had an enormous focus in understanding of the importance of culture to organizations.

There are all sorts of incredible benefits in terms of employee retention and in terms of the cost to, to retain employees in terms of their timeline and just in terms of the employee's desire, attracting the best talent in the business. To wanna work there. Those are all have been highly documented, but legend has it that the co-founder and co ceo O and Neil Bushy, along with his co-founder, Dave Duffield, interviewed personally interviewed the first 700 employees at Workday.

Yeah. That was the premium that they put on culture. Yeah. At Workday. And that still is very much felt today. Yeah. They, at Workday we. Put a premium on wanting employees to feel part of something bigger and a desire to belong to something that's meaningful. And a, as the saying goes, we eat our own dog food, right?

So we use the Workday systems in our day-to-day life, and they're incredibly helpful and useful. We use them for everything from submitting your expenses to. Conducting employee reviews to tabulating time spent in the office, right? All of these tasks that all add up to something that is incredibly helpful and important and useful in terms of disseminating information and ensuring that everybody is on the same page with everything from the vision and the mission of the company to the leadership's point of view on the latest earnings to where we're headed strategically over the next quarter.

Jon Busby: You carry on about culture then, and bringing us back to this rocking the marketing world with the, of course, the fantastic Super Bowl ad. What was the. W would you say it's part of Workday's culture to to be that experimental, that bold with its marketing?

Erik Petersen: Yeah. We like to take calculator risks. Our latest addition to our leadership team has been our co ceo, Carl Eschenbach.

Carl had been on the board of Workday for five years, and then just six months ago started as her co c e o alongside. Of a, Neil and Carl likes to talk a lot about being bold. There's an opportunity for us to really, yeah, speak with a little bit more confidence and swagger in our voice. And so we've started doing that and I, the Super Bowl campaign was indicative of that attitude and approach where we were gonna go out there and along with some of the best known music talent in the world, talk about Workday and how we made people in finance and HR rock stars.

Yeah, it was a really unique opportunity

Jon Busby: Would you say there's a, was there a secret to getting that the. Your peers, the rest of the board, whoever else was involved at Workday bought into that idea? Yeah,

Erik Petersen: we were fortunate because Aneel approached us and said, Hey, what do you guys think? You wanna do the Superbowl?

And we're like, wait, is this a trick question? Yeah, yeah, for sure. Come on. And of course, for the ad agency, it was a dream, right? Every agency would love. To do a Super Bowl assignment and to Ogilvy's credit, they came up with some terrific concepts and this one just stood head and shoulders above the rest.

We saw it immediately and said, oh my God, this is the one. And we took it to ane and ultimately to the rest of our C-Suite, and they were like, absolutely, thumbs up, let's do it. And we said, great. We bought a 32nd slot on the Superbowl. And so of course the agency, like any good agency came back and said, here's the 32nd edit.

And I was like, oh my God, how did they fit five rock stars into 30 seconds? But they did it. And they said, but here's the 62nd cut. And we said, guys, we only bought a 32nd time slot. And they're like, we know, maybe you could run it on the website or something. So we showed it to a Neil and rest of the C-Suite and they're like, yeah, we want that one.

And we're like, okay guys. Media help. Help media Defcon five and to, to our media team's credit, they went in and they found a 62nd spot in the third quarter, God bless them, just a few weeks before the game. And so we were on, we had a 62nd spot in the Superbowl, which we had done our research and it was pretty clear that if you were gonna land in any of the sort of the top 10 rankings for the past several Super Bowls, it was a 62nd spot that was gonna get you there.

Jon Busby: Oh, interesting. So you've mentioned, I. Some of the metrics and this particular ad, what was it? 4 billion PR impressions, spot on the USA Today ad meter to top 10 ad weeks. Number two campaign. US number one. Yeah. So many accolades. Yeah. Which of course you guys must be incredibly proud of. Absolutely. But when you went into this, Were those, your KPIs?

Erik Petersen: They were among them. One of them was absolutely top 20% according to USA Today. Ad meter pull. That's always been a really important barometer. It's not the only one, but it's an important barometer of your performance. And look, as a B2B brand, that's no small feat. And we did it. We nailed it. We landed in the top 10.

No other B2B brand made it to the top 10. I don't even, I, there was maybe one other B2B advertiser I think on the Super Bowl this year. Maybe it. Maybe a couple, but yeah, that, that was important to be recognized by USA Today. Poll for sure. Washington Post, I think you mentioned Adweek as well, campaign Without a doubt.

The 4 billion impressions, just staggering number. We had our senior leadership invited to be interviewed by endemic. Press like Adage and others, but also by mainstream press, like the USA Today and People Magazine, which was great. But yeah, no, we also said we're gonna measure this. We did an ad exposure study that looked at people's awareness and attitudes when it came to Workday versus our competitors, other advertisers.

And we did incredibly well. We looked at our brand tracker that we field quarterly also saw staggering up. Tick in unaided awareness. This is the holy grail of measurements. Just an open field question. Tell us about any cloud-based enterprise software for finance, HR, and planning. And we saw a six point jump.

This is massive. You're lucky if year over year you see maybe a one point or two point. We saw a six point jump. It was quarter over quarter, which was huge. We don't expect it necessarily to. To stick. Great. If it does, we'll take it. But yeah, that was a huge jump. And look, this wasn't just for the United States.

Certainly the Super Bowl is very much US passion globally. Other countries are aware of it, and we heard from our workmates globally, they were excited about this spot. They all know that. Talent globally. Mm-hmm. We ended up translating it in French in German. It's run across the world in Australia, France, Germany, the uk, Canada.

So yeah, no there, there's tremendous excitement behind this and really our workmates embraced it Glo our 18,000 workmates. Couldn't be more excited.

Jon Busby: And was that your, so we have this term like BHAG, I'm sure you've heard like big hairy, audacious go. Was that your BHAG when you went into creating this ad, like the.

We wanna see a six point jump, or we wanna see a big jump in our brand tracker.

Erik Petersen: Yeah, we wanted to see a rise certainly in, in awareness and familiarity, your upper funnel metrics, without a doubt. And we were hoping we would see a rise in unaided awareness. But yeah, we couldn't have anticipated these numbers.

They were really terrific. The 4 billion PR impressions is just staggering. My Super Bowl campaign I was part of a few years ago, we were elated when we hit a billion, so getting to four X was just massive, really outperformed our goals. And yeah, we were excited about this. Now look at the end of the day.

It. It also comes down to mql, marketing qualified leads, and ultimately to sales. Now we're not a snack chipper, soda pop. You're not gonna run out. Yeah, the next day and buy a pack of workday. We've typically got a six to 18 month sales cycle, so we. Dropped bread, c crumbs along the way and could look at interest amongst our audience and nurture these leads, feed them more information, case studies, white papers.

If they raise their hand, we'll give them a demo, a sales call, and ultimately hopes of getting to conversion. Because look, we're, we are out to form a long term relationship when we sell into a customer, it's often, at times gonna be like a decade more. Relationship. We're talking about millions of dollars here at State.

Mm-hmm. It's a big commitment. We've got a lot of decision makers and those decision makers have influencers. It's a complex process.

Jon Busby: I definitely wanna drive back into the influencer question in a second actually, but you, you mentioned MQL and, and the, and 18 months. I'd love it if you could go to the store and buy a pack of Workday.

I'm sure we all would. It would make enterprise sales a lot simpler. Like, how did you take this ad? From a 30 and then a 62nd cut through to being a full funnel campaign. What were the different components that you included as part of this?

Erik Petersen: Yeah, great question. When we first saw this idea, we pretty quickly realized that in order to get our roi, there was really desire to make this something much more than a single 62nd spot.

Now, The idea had to be scalable to do that. It was. And so we said, look, let's get a, uh, return here. Not just because of the monetary investment, but also on, on this big idea that's staring us right here in the face. And we worked with the agency and we brought in our partners. Oftentimes you wanna keep the idea closed, you wanna make sure it doesn't get.

Diluted or distorted, but that wasn't the case here. We really shared it with our workmates up and down the funnel and said, look, this is a big idea. We'd love to have you engage with it. Let's not just make it a brand campaign. Let's connect it to demand as well. And so we were able to pull it all the way through to our digital, to events, to our demand advertising.

Everybody was excited to, to be part of it. We gave a sneak preview to our customers who were excited about it. We. Definitely used our 18,000 global workmates to amplify it. They wanted to know how they could become involved with it. We gave them a sneak preview. We held tailgate parties on campus where we provided a bunch of snacks and things and ran the spot in advance, but we also gave them assets that they could use to amplify it.

Right? We gave them slack emojis, zoom backgrounds. We cut special edits that were used as part of our sales. Forced kickoff that we do annually every year. That included a shout out from some of the talent that was filmed specially for them. And then of course we made the, all the assets available for our workmates to share via their own personal networks, all of which helped really to dial up the campaign and pulled those qualified leads all the way through the funnel, across our customer decision journey.

Jon Busby: Wow. So the, how did you. How did that happen to get that level of integrated campaign all the way through the organization? What's, what would you know if you were to hopefully do this again next year? Yeah. What would be the learning that you need to take into that? Yeah, great call.

Erik Petersen: I would say definitely bring, bringing people in early, giving them some guardrails.

We created some. Usage rules and some of 'em were legal, right? There were only certain things we could do with the talent. Yeah. But putting up those guardrails, letting them know, here's where we can play. Here's how you can use this content. Here's what you can do with it. And, but also giving them the freedom and flexibility to use it as they saw fit.

In digital across events with our sponsorships that we do, and also engaging other talent. We have some fun content that we created that featured one of our rockstar talent paired with one of our golf brass golf brand ambassadors. Rory McElroy, paired with Billy Idol, saw some fun ways to mix things up a little bit and engage our audiences in some unexpected ways.

It's always great to surprise and delight your audience when you can.

Jon Busby: Was that due to the pure. Was that due to the pure energy of doing something this with these literally rock stars? Or was it to do with board buy-in with them saying, we've gotta use this across everything? Well, was it everything? What was the secret there?

Erik Petersen: Yeah, I think we collaborated with C. The agency had incredible talent working on this all the way through to their president out of New York. Chris Basford Hill and their executive creative director, chief Creative Officer, Lisa Bright, and they were excited. They brought in their teams, they worked across this and came to us with a lot of really clever ideas.

At the end of the day, we could only green light so many, but yeah, there was excitement, there was engagement and. Of course people are, when they hear the names of these talent, when they look at the opportunity with the Super Bowl to reach 113 million people, there's just still nothing else like it in the world.

In some ways, it's a throwback, but in many ways also it's been modernized and amplified across all of the DI digital and social media today that we have.

Jon Busby: And I think it, we have a similar, like Superbowl ads in the uk. We actually, I, we seek them out and watch them. So I remember, I sure I saw that top 10 list with the Workday.

A, we actually have a similar thing with, for some reason our supermarkets have now supermarket ads every year and have become a trend where we have to watch them. Right. And they've almost become self-fulfilling with us. They don't even need to run the advert. You go and seek it out. So I think that's what the.

That's the advantage of running Superbowl ads is people almost watch it now just for the advertising.

Erik Petersen: Absolutely. Every year I watch it with a bunch of ad people and everyone's chattering away during the games. And then when it comes to commercial, everyone's, I wanna hear that.

Jon Busby: It must be really rewarding, especially being in brand to just be part of that journey.

Did you get a chance when you were, did you get a chance to be part of the filming? Any of these?

Erik Petersen: I did. I was fortunate to be there on set. We filmed on location at the the Greek in Los Angeles, a very famous outdoor amphitheater there, and shot on location, a home with a swimming pool, backyard for the Ozzy sequence.

And yeah, the talent was, Incredibly gracious. They were all really kind and accommodating. I think they, they had a lot of fun with it. They really enjoyed themselves and we let them try a lot of different readings, a lot of different lines. Our director, Jim Jenkins, huge talent. The guy's done a ton of Superbowl ads and brought a lot to the process without a doubt.

Really helped us to dial up the performances, the dialogue. Had some great ideas around the delivery. Yeah, really just really incredibly fortunate to be part of it.

Jon Busby: It's gonna be one of the first times we've probably heard of a rider. When it comes to a, when it, probably the first time we've heard of a rider when it comes to a B2B ad.

Yeah. I wonder if there was any requirements for Blue m and ms as part of it. The when you are, I think this truly demonstrates how far B2B technology marketing has come over the past decade. And you looking back at the success we've mentioned, the 4 billion views, which is. Absolutely insane. How are you gonna look at topping that for next year?

Erik Petersen: Yeah, it's a tall order for sure, but as marketing's incredibly fluid, your priorities are constantly evolving. We're looking at, we're a global brand, we're looking at our geographies all the time, looking at where the opportunity is. For us to harvest leads to, to put them on our customer decision journey.

So you never know. We've got major investments in sponsorships, formula One across emea. Have a sponsorship with B V B Dortmund in Germany, the outstanding soccer club. We invest in golf. Here in the US we've got live from the masters. We've got our own memorial tournament that was just played over this past weekend.

You never know how things, investments are gonna change and evolve over the years or even over the months, I should say. We started out in human capital management and of course as we grew and evolve, we offer finance solutions, planning solutions, which are. Huge opportunities for us to grow, and it all depends on the market, right?

We still have opportunities for H D M in markets, abroads investments. Objectives are constantly evolving and changing. So I don't know if it's so much about topping ourselves. We always want to do great work. At the end of the day, what really? Differentiates us from our competitors is a brand that has humanity.

That's ha represents a person that you wanna get to know and hang out with and be friends with. Cuz let's face it, the end of the day decisions aren't completely rational as much as we like to pretend they are. You want to work with somebody that you like. You wanna be part of an organization, part of a brand that you enjoy spending time with.

And that is our differentiator and we don't wanna lose that.

Jon Busby: Let me ask that in a slightly different way. Is it already on the CMO and the board's mind now to be like, we've gotta do a Super Bowl out next year. Like we've, we look, we've had all this success, we've gotta, we've gotta carry on. Do you think it's gonna continue, it's gonna be another 62nd slot, or is it gonna try you looking at trying something else?

Erik Petersen: I don't know. I don't know, honestly. Look, it would, of course it would be fun to do that, but there's, we can do great marketing anywhere, truly. It's the filter that you create on Snapchat. It's the outta home that you do in Times Square. It's the. Video that goes viral on LinkedIn, you never know what it's gonna be.

There is no limit to doing great work, great creative, and you know, really reaching our audience wherever they are. And for us, that means the C-Suite and their influencers. And we have channels like LinkedIn. They're obviously aims squarely at them, or Wall Street Journal or Financial Times, or the Globe, depending on the market.

But yeah, we're gonna continue to. Look at great sponsorships and advertising and reach our C-suite wherever we find them.

Jon Busby: Wow. And I think that's so true. Like a lot of it is you never know what's gonna take off. And have you, you mentioned a Snapchat filter work, they done a Snapchat filter and I've missed that.

Erik Petersen: Not that I'm aware. No. Not yet at least, but maybe not yet. We did a really fun. App that lets you turn yourself into a rockstar and share that, that makeover on social media. So that's fun. It paints your hair blue and gives you an earrings. Yeah, we had a lot of fun. We also engaged with our audience during the Superbowl and offered a, a limited edition Oswald.

T-shirt that featured the Ozzy character from the Super Bowl spot, wearing a shirt, a button down shirt and tie. And of course, in the ultimate form of flattery, it was immediately bootlegged and offered for sale all over the internet.

Jon Busby: At least. Hopefully they bootlegged to the workday branding as part of it.

Erik Petersen: They, yeah, they did. And so it was both flattering and litigious at the same time. Yeah.

Jon Busby: Finding that unique. Viral elements like being agency size. You've probably had this, you've had a client come to you and say, we wanna make a viral video. We can't create a viral video. What's, what would be the secret that you would say that you wanna take forward to the next campaign?

Erik Petersen: Yeah, just finding that insight that enables you to simplify. We sell, Complex, sophisticated software that it can be very complex at times if you wanna talk about the nuances of it. But we took that real huge complexity and distilled it down, and until we got to this idea that workday, Can make you a finance, an HR rockstar.

It's, it is a very simple idea that anybody can understand. With Workday, you can be a finance and HR rockstar. Wow, okay. 113 million people, most of them should be able to understand what that means. Yeah. And so you start there, right? And then for those that are interested, maybe they're in the market or will be soon and wanna learn more, you start to pull them further and further along that decision journey.

Jon Busby: That's, and I think having that singular idea that everything hangs off. So I'm a technologist. I get really excited about, let's add some marketing automation here, or let's add, and actually starting with that single strong idea that you've gotta start there and then everything else builds on top. Yeah,

Erik Petersen: I think so.

I think so. I was watching old video of Steve Jobs talking like we all do, but he was talking about. That ability of his ad agency to strip things away and strip them away and strip them away until they got down to that bare essence of that, the core idea. And that's when you can do that mean you can't always do it.

It's hard. It's really hard. But when you can do that, I think you'll often be successful.

Jon Busby: I think. I think there's a, I think I've read by. I forget the author, but the creative director from those campaigns actually wrote a really good book. I dunno if you've ever, I think it's called Think Different, the actual book.

Okay. Yeah. But yeah, absolutely. Fascinating. So I've got my final question here that we're asking everyone, or actually I've got two final questions, but if in the what, five words. Of advice. I'm gonna say it again. I was gonna say, could you wanna say it again? Yeah. Thank you. Thank you, Alex. Thank you producer.

That's okay. In five words, what advice would you give a future CMO to achieve success? If you were to summarize all of this success down to five words, what would it be?

Erik Petersen: I, how about two?

Jon Busby: Go for it.

Erik Petersen: Be persistent.

Jon Busby: I love that. Especially from brand as well, right? That's it's, it can be so easily stripped away.

Erik Petersen: Yeah. I think you really, I think to seek to success. Is just. Do not be deterred, just no matter what. You just gotta keep coming and coming. And if you do that, you'll eventually


Jon Busby: So is this your first a conference?

Erik Petersen: No, I've been to a few, obviously.

Jon Busby: Will we see you again next year? That's the question.

Erik Petersen: Oh yeah. I hope so. I would love to be here

Jon Busby: and hopefully we'll be seeing another Super Bowl commission, maybe another F1 sponsorship. Something we can be talking about that. Do you get a chance to go to any of the F1 races yourself?

Erik Petersen: I have not been to an F1 race yet, but now that there's more here in the us maybe I, because you've got what, miami, Texas, Vegas this year.

Jon Busby: That's right. So that's gonna be crazy. But does Workday sponsor all of them or just the,

Erik Petersen: we're the partner in EMEA right now. Yeah.

Jon Busby: Yeah, fine, because we always saw it as sponsoring all of F. We are big F1 fans here in the UK, so hence that. I probably see more Workday branding from that than anything else.

But Eric, it's been a real pleasure having you on the podcast today. Thank you so much for joining us.

Erik Petersen: Oh, yeah. Thank you for having me. It's been a blast. Yeah. And I, and hope you

enjoy the rest of the conference.

Jon Busby: Yeah, thank you.

Thanks for tuning in for another episode of the Masters of B2B Marketing in association with the Ana's. Looking for more insights. Be sure to explore our other episodes showcasing some brilliant leaders in the B2B world. And of course, don't forget to hit subscribe to Stay Up to Date with the latest from the Tech Marketing podcast.

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