Viral Genius Unpacked: The Strategy Behind Michael Cera & CeraVe’s Marketing Mastery

Michael Cera holding up a jar of CeraVe.

Table of Contents

  • Ayah
  • June 10, 2024

During Super Bowl LVIII, an unexpected duo stole the spotlight – skincare brand CeraVe teamed up with actor Michael Cera for their big game ad. The quirky campaign built major anticipation by teasing a supposed connection between Cera and the brand for weeks before the championship game.

While Super Bowl ads often rely on star power, CeraVe’s marketing strategy took an unconventional approach. The quirky campaign built major anticipation by getting people to ask: What’s the deal with Michael and CeraVe? Rather than a glitzy celebrity endorsement, CeraVe kept things engaging and memorable through mystery marketing.

Their light-hearted campaign was a marketing touchdown driven by buzz rather than a multimillion-dollar ad blitz. And this is what staffing firms can learn from them.


The Road to the Bowl: CeraVe’s Campaign

After weeks of speculation, the Super Bowl ad finally revealed the Michael Cera-CeraVe connection was an elaborate prank. During the first quarter, Cera humorously portrayed himself as the face of CeraVe – chilling with a massage, scaling mountains, even chatting with a narwhal while quipping “Let my cream hydrate you.”

But reality struck as he woke up pitching to a boardroom of skincare experts. Cera wrapped up with a playful “It would be nice if people thought I made this,” as the ad made it clear that CeraVe is created by dermatologists, not the quirky actor.

CeraVe executed a campaign flipping the script on traditional football game ads by getting influencers involved and building public anticipation pre-game. Their light-hearted, buzzworthy approach was a refreshing change of pace from celebrity-driven commercials.

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How They Built Anticipation Before the Big Game

Learn how CeraVe got everyone excited before the NFL championship by using clever marketing strategies. With quirky events and smart social media moves, they built up anticipation, leaving fans eager to see what they had planned.


Introducing a surprising face representing the brand.

It all started with a surprising discovery online. CeraVe teamed up with Ogilvy to launch their first Sup campaign, aiming to become a cultural phenomenon beyond their TikTok popularity. While searching social media for ideas, Ogilvy stumbled upon old Reddit threads discussing the coincidental name similarity between Cera and CeraVe.

This online conspiracy provided the perfect spark. Despite being an unlikely skincare spokesperson as a low-profile actor without a social media presence, Cera’s unexpected association became a stroke of genius for CeraVe. They created a “fake representative” persona portraying the actor as the brand’s down-to-earth “real deal.”

Cera’s lack of online presence added to the campaign’s air of mystery. The strategy was to spin tales about his supposed CeraVe ties before finally revealing the truth – turning an online coincidence into an innovative marketing ploy.


Drawing Inspiration from CeraVe’s Campaign

Staffing firms can glean lessons from CeraVe’s marketing approach by:


Utilize Online Discoveries
Keep an eye on online discussions and social media platforms to uncover potential opportunities and ideas for your marketing campaigns. Regularly engage in industry-specific LinkedIn groups and forums where professionals discuss topics related to your staffing needs. Pay attention to these online communities’ discussions, questions, and trends.


Embrace Unconventional Ideas
Don’t shy away from unconventional concepts or partnerships. Sometimes, the most unexpected collaborations can lead to remarkable success. The CeraVe influencer strategy perfectly exemplifies how a unique and surprising partnership can capture attention and drive engagement.

Your firm could partner with an unexpected industry influencer or local celebrity to create a buzzworthy campaign, showcasing the firm’s innovative approach to staffing solutions

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Create Intrigue and Mystery
Building anticipation and curiosity around your brand can make your campaigns more memorable and engaging. To pique curiosity among your target audience, you might use elements of mystery, such as cryptic messages, intriguing images, or teaser videos.

For instance, you could create a series of teaser posts hinting at an exciting upcoming announcement about a new, innovative service or a high-profile client partnership. This approach can spark interest and conversations, drawing more attention to your brand.


Spreading the information

Influencers played a big role in the CeraVe campaign. The brand usually partners with skincare and dermatology influencers, but this time, it teamed up with culture and entertainment commentators. These influencers were chosen because they often discuss rumors online, which helped build the story.

While all this was happening, Cera played his part in stirring up excitement. He signed CeraVe bottles at Euro Chemist in Brooklyn and carried bags of the product around New York City, which got attention in tabloids like Page Six. During an interview on The Really Good Podcast with Althoff, he dramatically left when asked about his connection to CeraVe.

Instead of releasing a teaser for its ad like other advertisers, CeraVe relied on internet gossip to generate hype without revealing details. The stunts caught on quickly, and the conspiracy gained coverage in popular magazines and websites such as People, The Cut, Us Weekly, and the Daily Mail.

In the three weeks before the game, CeraVe’s partnership with Cera has gotten 6 billion views and millions of interactions on social media, all without spending any money on advertising.¹


What Staffing Firms Can Learn

Here are more examples of what staffing firms can learn from the CeraVe campaign:

  • Diversify influencer partnerships: Like CeraVe, staffing firms can broaden their influencer collaborations beyond industry experts to include commentators from related fields. For example, partnering with career coaches, industry analysts, or workplace culture influencers can provide diverse perspectives and reach new audiences.
  • Host interactive events: Host online events like webinars or Q&A sessions with experts, hiring managers, and current employees. These events give valuable insights into job opportunities, company culture, and career paths, all while encouraging interaction with your audience.
  • Create teaser campaigns: Instead of revealing everything about job openings or recruitment plans right away, tease them through social media posts, email newsletters, or short teaser videos. This gets potential candidates excited and curious, making them more likely to keep an eye out for further updates and announcements.


Wrapping Up: The Closure

The campaign aimed to boost awareness of CeraVe and establish it as a trusted skincare brand. Their marketing strategy combines informative content, advocacy, and building relationships with dermatologists. While the brand values scientific research and recommendations from experts, it also sees the importance of engaging with the audience in fun and playful ways.

But here’s where the fun twist comes in: just as Cera’s involvement brought unexpected charm to the skincare campaign, staffing firms can inject some personality and humor into their branding and communication. This could mean using witty job postings, engaging social media content, or hosting virtual events with a playful vibe.

Now, Michael might not be the first person you’d associate with skincare. But that’s what makes this campaign unique. It’s unexpected. Unlike typical glamorous beauty ads, it’s humorous and witty and has everyone talking. It also sends the message that skincare is for everyone, not just stereotypical celebrities.

Read More: Top 5 Marketing Campaigns That Captured Our Imagination



With Allied Insight by your side, your brand will be the industry’s MVP, leaving competitors feeling like they just fumbled the ball at the game. We’ll bring the fireworks, the flash, and the fanfare, making your competitors feel stuck in a never-ending instant replay.

With our innovative strategies and game-changing tactics, your brand will steal the spotlight and leave audiences cheering for an encore. So, if you’re ready to score big and make your brand the talk of the town, contact us today and create some marketing magic that even football commercials would envy.



  1. “Ceraves Marketing Strategy—and Michael Cera-Ve’s Strange Superbowl Ad Explained.” Brand Vision,


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