Amid the wall-to-wall sound during next Sunday's Super Bowl, one commercial from PepsiCo could send some viewers grabbing for their remotes to check whether they'd accidentally hit the mute button.
The pre-game advertisement features a joke that originates from the deaf community and will play out on screen over 60 seconds of total silence, a veritable eternity when it comes to the noisiness of Super Bowl ads.
"It's a popular story and we just turned it into an advertisement," said Clay Broussard, a supply and logistics manager at PepsiCo who proposed the idea for the ad. "This is the PepsiCo flavor of that joke."
The joke goes like this: Two guys are driving to their friend Bob's house to watch the Super Bowl. Once they get to Bob's street, neither knows which house is his. They sit in the car, arguing, until one of them has an idea. He starts laying on the horn, and one by one, the houses light up and dogs start barking.
One house stays dark and quiet: It's Bob's.
Deaf people will be falling out of their chairs in disbelief, National Association of the Deaf president Bobbie Beth Scoggins wrote in an e-mail response to questions. Hearing people, Scoggins wrote, will stop what they're doing to see why there are no sounds. She believes it's an historic first for an ad featuring American Sign Language to get such prominent play.
"I was glad to see this part of deaf culture awareness shared in a most clever way," Scoggins, who is deaf, wrote by e-mail as she was traveling.
Broussard, who plays Bob in the commercial, has worked for PepsiCo in Dallas for 27 years. He got involved in the deaf community through a church he and his wife attended, where the services were conducted entirely in sign language. Broussard is not deaf.
The two actors who play Bob's friends — Brian Dowling and Darren Therriault — are also PepsiCo employees, and are deaf. Dowling works for Frito-Lay in Arizona, and Therriault works for PepsiCo in Chicago.
Broussard worked on the ad concept on his own time. He said, "This was all extra credit."
It was 18 months before he showed it to senior managers, who decided they wanted it for the Super Bowl.
The ad was directed by Baker Smith, with creative help from BBDO-NY. A PepsiCo spokeswoman declined to say how much the ad cost.