Suspended Animation #304
In 2004, Seinfeld was reunited with an animated Superman in two webisode American Express advertisements collectively known as The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman.
These webisodes were animated by the digital media firm UnpluggedTV Studios in Toronto, Canada that specialized in marketing and entertainment for the internet. The live action portions of the films were shot on digital video, using special lenses that give the grainy appearance of film. The animation was directed by Richard D’Alessio, founder of Unplugged.
The studio animated the Superman character using a combination of classical hand-drawn animation and Macromedia Flash. They then turned the animation files over to Outpost Digital, a Santa Monica-based special effects company, to be combined with the live action portions, in a process known as digital compositing.
Both four minute webisodes were co-written by Seinfeld and directed by Oscar winning film director Barry Levinson.
AmEx used the episodes to attract people to its website where they would be only a click away from signing up for a card. The Adventures of Seinfeld and Superman was widely considered one of the most innovative online campaigns of its time driving more than four million visits per week to the site during the first three weeks. Because of the campaign, Adweek named American Express its Interactive Marketer of the Year for 2004.
On March 29, 2004 there was a news conference with Jerry Seinfeld to announce the web-only advertising known as branded entertainment or advertainment. Superman was unable to attend the news conference because he was out saving the world.
“It’s great to try something you haven’t done, in a format with which you have not worked – especially with someone as talented as Jerry,” said director Barry Levinson. “As for Superman, I truly enjoyed working with him. He’s a professional. What can I say, he’s the Man of Steel!”
The spot was shot on location in New York City. Superman was “played” by Harry O’Reilly in an all-green suit with an animated Man of Steel figure to be later super-imposed over him and Warburton’s voice added.
”We’re trying to reach consumers where they’re going today, on the Internet, ” John Hayes, chief marketing officer at American Express in New York, said. “We’re trying to create media content where people actually opt in to watch. We have a longstanding relationship with both Seinfeld and Superman, and are excited to bring them together once again for all fans to enjoy.”
Because of the huge success of the 1998 comercial, these two Web commercials were centered on Mr. Seinfeld’s relationship with Superman, sort of an odd-couple friendship, and a casual, every-day conversation format much like Seinfeld’s popular television show.
The first Internet commercial A Uniform Used to Mean Something debuted March 29, 2004.
The two stop in a diner where Superman has given the name “Man of Steel” for the reservation to avoid getting a table by the kitchen, and uses his cape as a napkin when he wipes his mouth because it’s “impervious to stain.”
On the way to Seinfeld’s apartment to install his new DVD player while discussing reality television shows, the pair are momentarily distracted by the posters for a new (fictional) Broadway musical play, Oh Yes Wyoming.
While they are debating the merits of the publicity, a theif (Martin Ewens) steals the DVD player and Superman gives chase. The crook throws the player at Superman’s chest and it is damaged as it hits the ground.Superman offers to fly around the Earth and reverse time so the player is never stolen in the first place but Seinfeld pulls out his AmEx card which offers purchase protection so he can get a replacement. Superman is unable to connect up the player so the two go and see the Broadway play.
There were three fifteen-section teaser commercials produced to run on local and national stations and networks to promote the Web spots. Two featured Superman avoiding calls from Green Lantern with Seinfeld covering for him and a third that was a preview of the next webisode.
Three postcards were available of Superman and Seinfeld of their adventures on a road trip including a visit to a dog park with Krypto, attending a party and a baseball game. They were distributed to hundreds of dining and entertainment merchants as well as health clubs in the greater New York area or could be downloaded from the website.
Plastic bags decorated with Daily Planet themes, wrapped around New York newspapers were made to be distributed via home delivery in the market. Other marketing efforts included “Lid Rocks” that were a new type of specialized lid for fountain drinks. The lids housed mini disks featuring content about the campaign, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the webisode – accessible by computer.
Superman and Seinfeld in a pre-recorded interview appeared on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and NBC’s The Today Show with Matt Lauer (March 30, 2004) where the clip was put up on the Today Show website where Superman even talks about being upset about being “dead” in the his comic book and even though he is back, his neck is a still a little stiff.
The second spot entitled Hindsight is 20/20 appeared May 13, 2004.
The sequel, shot on location in Death Valley, California, follows Superman and Seinfeld as the two set out on a cross-country road trip in one of Seinfeld’s legendary vintage cars.
Superman gets frustrated trying to open a pesky pistachio and deflects questions from a tourist about Green Lantern. Superman has inadvertently locked the car keys in the car when he went to get a camera so that he could take a picture with Seinfeld. When they get their picture taken, there is a brief, wordless cameo by Noel Neill as another tourist sightseer. She had portrayed the role of Lois Lane in the 1950s television series.
Superman offers to fly around the Earth and reverse time so the keys never get locked in the car or rip off the doors but Seinfeld pulls out his AmEx card that offers Roadside Assistance. As they wait, Seinfeld tries to get Superman to confess how he came up with that name.
Seinfeld said, “I love taking road trips and thought it would be fun to invite Superman along for the ride. I’m sure he misses a lot of scenic spots when flying at super-speed. When you read the Superman comic book as a kid you don’t think ‘maybe someday he and I’ll hang out,’ but here I am actually doing it. Our exploits make for great material, and I think the Internet provides the perfect platform to share our comical adventures with fans around the planet.”