PAUL REVERE is recalled for shouting — whether or not he really did — “The British are coming! The British are coming!” Repeat that another time and you will summarize the plot of the first commercial that Jaguar will run during a Super Bowl.
The commercial — a 60-second spot scheduled for the second half of Super Bowl XLVIII, to be broadcast by Fox on Feb. 2 — will feature three British actors famed for portraying villains: Tom Hiddleston, Ben Kingsley and Mark Strong. (Actually, “The British are coming!” applies to the commercial four times in that its director, too, is British: Tom Hooper, who directed films like “The King’s Speech.”)
The dastardly roles of the actors inspire the theme for the commercial and for a six-month campaign that will follow it: “Good to be bad.”
The campaign for the car brand with the British heritage, estimated at more than $25 million, also involves teaser commercials, one of which, with Mr. Kingsley, began running on Saturday; a dedicated landing page, britishvillains.com, on the Jaguar USA website; a “Good to be bad” blog, produced by Gawker Media; content in social media, signaled by a hashtag, #GoodToBeBad; print, online and outdoor ads; partnerships with IFC, Pandora and Sports Illustrated; and ads that will wrap F train subway cars.
The choice of the F line is no coincidence, for the car that will be the star of the commercial is the new Jaguar F-Type Coupe. Jaguar USA, part of the Jaguar Land Rover North America unit of the Tata Group, is among several automakers buying commercial time during Super Bowl XLVIII — sold out since last month — at rates estimated in the neighborhood of $4 million for each 30 seconds. The others include Audi, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen.
Jaguar joins a lengthy list of advertisers that will be first-time participants in the annual ad bowl inside the Super Bowl; among the others are Beats Music, Butterfinger, Cheerios, Chobani, Intuit and Squarespace. Super Bowl advertisers that intend to return on Feb. 2 include Anheuser-Busch InBev, Axe, Coca-Cola, Dannon Oikos, Doritos, GoDaddy, H & M, Mars, PepsiCo Americas Beverages, Soda-
Stream and Wonderful pistachios.
Executives at Jaguar and Spark44, the internal agency handling the creative chores for the campaign, express a British kind of confidence about wading into the Super Bowl ad scrum.
“We approach it from a humble standpoint,” said Jeff Curry, brand vice president for Jaguar North America at Jaguar Land Rover North America, adding: “It’s our first time on this stage, the biggest stage we can stand on. You’re making a big investment, from a marketing standpoint. We’re going to give it a good shot.”
Mr. Curry acknowledged how high the risks are, because “you’re out there on the Super Bowl stage with no net.” The goal, then, is “a creative campaign that really pays off, that gives people something to engage with,” he said, and is rooted in the Jaguar identity “of a modern British challenger brand,” offering buyers of luxury cars an alternative to marques like Mercedes-Benz.
Just as “Hollywood often casts Brits to play the villains, the ones who disrupt the story line,” the F-Type Coupe is meant to disrupt the sports-car status quo, Mr. Curry said. Jaguar does not want to be perceived as an evil, destructive villain, he added, but rather like a British villain in film or television: “stylish, calm, calculating, smart; there’s a cool factor to them, and people like them.”
That is how Mr. Kingsley plays his part in the teaser commercial, dressed as if he were about to face James Bond in a high-stakes card game in Monte Carlo. In a voice dripping with sang froid, he dismisses Jaguar’s rivals as “the usual suspects” and chortles, “You’ll be hearing from us.” The teaser is to be followed on Jan. 28 by a 30-second, online version of the Super Bowl spot, with the full version of the commercial appearing in the game five days later.
“We wanted something that will really stand out in the Super Bowl, with a distinct tone of voice,” said Matthew Page, creative director at the London office of Spark44, infused with the kind of “wit that makes something more watchable, more shareable, more enjoyable.”
“We looked at British culture for references everyone would understand,” he added, and decided the fact that “all these great villains seem to be played by British actors” was “like a gift from the gods.”
“It was one of those ‘hallelujah’ moments,” Mr. Page said, that came after watching movies like “Sexy Beast,” featuring Mr. Kingsley; “all the James Bond films”; and even “The Lion King,” in which Jeremy Irons supplied the voice of the evil character Scar.
“When Disney are saying the villain’s got to be British,” Mr. Page said, laughing, there must be merit to the concept.
“It’s not about being evil, nasty,” he added, but rather “doing what you do with style, panache.”
The media part of the campaign is being handled by the Jaguar media agency, Mindshare, part of the GroupM division of WPP. Mr. Page said he would experience his first Super Bowl Sunday in the United States, “based in the Mindshare offices as part of the team working on the responsive, live, social media” aspects of the campaign.
Although “I haven’t ever watched” a Super Bowl because it’s the middle of the night for us,” he added, “we know what a big event it is, the annual event for ads.”