Mood Board

Mood Board: How Squarespace reimagined a “century-old story” for its Super Bowl ad

In the commercial, Zendaya stars as Sally, a woman who sells seashells by the seashore.
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Illustration: Dianna "Mick" McDougall, Photos: Squarespace

· 3 min read

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We recently wrote about an emerging Super Bowl trend: Influencers could be well on their way to making more appearances in spots during the game, ads that more traditional celebrities have populated for years (and still do). But there was one conversation topic that didn’t make it into our story: Zendaya.

Experts we spoke with agree that Z is the ideal Super Bowl ad star, a blend of influencer and celeb. The actress is a household name and recognizable face, but she understands social media as well as any mega-influencer, too. She boasts 129 million followers on Instagram, significantly more than many A-list celebs (Jennifer Aniston, for instance, has 39.8 million).

This year, Squarespace scooped up the Euphoria star. Zendaya starred in the website-building company’s Super Bowl ad as Sally, an entrepreneur who sells seashells by the—you guessed it—seashore.

Marketing Brew spoke with Squarespace Senior Creative Director Gui Borchert about the inspo (sea-spiration?) behind the ad.

Origin story: What would a well-known tongue twister look like as a Squarespace ad? Among the many ideas the team came up with, “the notion of re-imagining a century-old story and bringing it to life was just so intriguing. It felt so charming to try to bring Sally and her world to life,” Borchert continued. As the team continued to iterate on the brief, he said the story “got better and better.”

Coney Island: The ad’s color palette is distinctive, full of washed-out pastels. Apparently, that stemmed from Squarespace’s team hunting for a non-cliché seaside color wheel. “The idea was to start with vibrant colors, actually, and then tone them down, as if the color naturally faded after being out in the sun for so many years—just like the signs and objects around places like Coney Island,” Borchert told us.

Tongue twisters: For those who grew up living under a seashell, the whole point of “She Sells Seashells” is that it’s hard to say. And you know what is hard to sing? All of André 3000’s verses in OutKast’s 2003 smash-hit “Hey Ya!”

For the narration, Borchert said, “we wanted a master of flow,” adding that André 3000 was not only at the top of Squarespace’s list for the narration, but also “really the only one we could see in it.”

Style: Zendaya brought a plus-one to the seashell party—Law Roach, her personal fashion stylist and image architect. He designed the eccentric costumes that Sally sports throughout the ad.

“Wardrobe played a big part in the character arc of Sally. It needed to signal her humble beginnings when her seashells weren’t selling so well, and then progressively nod to her growing success as her seashells started selling, until she finally became a seashell celebrity,” Borchert told us.

Aw, shucks: There’s a double entendre in the 60-second version of the ad. “In keeping with the tongue twister, Zendaya says ‘shucks’ twice, using the two different meanings of the expression—a bit sad in the opening and a happier one at the end,” Borchert said.

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