Chris Bradford was too skinny to play football at Hilton Head Island High School.
But on this Super Bowl Sunday, he's pounding with the big boys. He's in the game.
Bradford, who graduated in 2000 and just turned 34, is the senior copywriter for a 60-second spot that will air during the third quarter of Super Bowl 50.
Sheep will sing "Somebody to Love" by Queen. A border collie will talk. And a modern-day shepherd will tend his flock in a Honda Ridgeline pickup truck with its first-ever, truck-bed audio system.
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The spot is called "A New Truck to Love." It's from the RPA ad agency in Santa Monica, Calif.
Meanwhile in New York City, 2008 Beaufort Academy graduate Elissa Dailey is on the team at the RAIN ad agency that created the Campbell's Chunky Soup ad, "This One's For Mom."
It's an inside-the-helmet view of a world of an unseen pee-wee player whose mom is there for all the crushing blows. In the end, the kid is a Green Bay Packer. The ad will run regionally in Green Bay, Wis., during the Super Bowl and nationally after that, according to Adweek.
It may look like a game, but it's not.
More than last year's record of 114.4 million people are expected to watch the Super Bowl, starting at 7 p.m. on CBS Sports with the same anchor and producer who show Hilton Head's RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing to the world, Jim Nantz and Lance Barrow.
Advertisers are plunking down a record $5 million for a 30-second spot. The cost to get their few seconds to market can be another $2 million.
USA Today dialed up the pressure with its Ad Meter, which gives instant results on how each spot goes over with the public.
YouTube jacked the stakes higher. Last year, YouTube users spent a record 840 million minutes watching Super Bowl ads, more than a third of it before kickoff, the Los Angeles Times reports. Ads debut a week out. By Saturday morning, both the Campbell's and Honda ads already had 1.7 million views.
"There's risk in it for all parties involved," Chris Bradford told me, an ocean away from where he was reared on a laid back island, waiting tables at Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks.
How do you get to the land of singing sheep?
"You're always wrestling with a blank piece of paper," Bradford said.
Both of our local Super Bowl kids are well-educated -- Dailey at Boston University and Bradford at the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
Bradford's mom, Señora Christina Bradford, was a Spanish teacher, Advanced Placement teacher and department chair at Hilton Head Island High for 20 years.
Chris Bradford went to UGA a film geek and graduated a film and television production major with no plan. An uncle helped get him an interview with the Saatchi and Saatchi agency in New York City. He got a job on the account management world of starched shirts, but made the rare leap to the other side, where "creatives" park their bikes in the hall outside darkened offices jammed with 3-D art. A room full of rock instruments may be down the hall, around the corner from the corn hole boards or the beer tap.
To get there, Bradford went to the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan at night. He moved to the BBDO Worldwide agency in New York, then to the smaller Rubin Postaer and Associates firm in Santa Monica.
RPA will have three ads in the Super Bowl, including one for Intuit with a shout-out to Death Wish Coffee, and one for Apartments.com where Lil Wayne meets George Washington's wooden teeth.
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Super Bowl success is an accumulation of failures.
"My whole job is managing rejection," Bradford said.
He and an art director team up to produce ideas that can get a clear message to a cluttered world. Almost all of the ideas are trashed.
Part of the process is to get out all the bad ideas.
"You get out all the clichès -- things you've seen before. The goal is to do something new.
"It's almost childlike in a sense. I'm motivated by fear, which I probably should talk to a therapist about."
It's the fear of failure. Worse yet, the fear of doing something that is unnoticed, so mediocre that it's white noise.
And somewhere deep in a legal pad, where hundreds of Super Bowl ads went to die, starting in June, there's a circle around this: "Singing sheep?"
It led to 60 seconds produced by Bryan Buckley, whose 40 Super Bowl ads have gotten him the name "King of the Super Bowl."
The sheep in Super Bowl land secretly learned to sing from the truck-bed audio on the Honda Ridgeline, a model returning to market in the testosterone-soaked world of pickup truck advertising.
"Who didn't love Queen," Bradford asked, jerking logic back into the creative pressure cooker.
"If sheep could learn to sing, you couldn't help but sing along with them."