Super Bowl Watch: 5 Questions With WeatherTech CEO David MacNeil


WeatherTech Super Bowl Ad

WeatherTech has become an old hand at Super Bowl commercials by now—and that’s exactly why the Illinois-based manufacturer of custom automotive floor-protection accessories is changing things up a bit in its fourth Big Game appearance.

Beyond promoting the made-in-America message of the company’s founder and CEO, David MacNeil, the WeatherTech advertisement in Super Bowl LI also adds a sexy female character in a thrilling scenario in the commercial. It requires a sort of highway chase and an action movie maneuver by a black-suited, WeatherTech-branded heroine—but WeatherTech mats still save the day.

In the commercial to be released Thursday evening, the WeatherTech precision-manufacturing operation in Bollingbrook, Illinois—taking advantage of digital-era customization technology, a produced-in-America supply chain, precision manufacturing and taut distribution network—is the real hero.

“The message will never go out of fashion, but we keep trying to find different ways to spin the same message so we’re not just replaying the same commercial,” MacNeil told brandchannel, as he discussed WeatherTech’s Super Bowl performance and its continuing growth: 

bc: Sometimes you’ve embargoed your Super Bowl ad until the game, sometimes you’ve shown it beforehand in full. What’s the strategy?

David MacNeil WeatherTech

David MacNeil: We embargoed it once. It’s going to get played on the Super Bowl and everyone watching it will see it anyway. And if we can get additional national play for the ad because people are showing Super Bowl commercials on evening news shows or whatever, it’s more bang for our Super Bowl buck.

bc: Why did you decide to push the envelope in terms of a creative direction this year?

MacNeil: Our message resonates with every American—and being a patriot will never go out of fashion. Providing jobs for your fellow Americans will never go out of fashion. This year’s commercial has a bit more action in it, with an action hero, and it’s a fun commercial. But it’s also a serious commercial about how we feel about creating American jobs. If you take support jobs into consideration for our 1,100 employees here, it means that there are more than 5,500 jobs out there in America just supporting us: box manufacturers, raw-materials manufacturers, people who drive the trucks. We’re doing our part to help the American economy.

bc: You certainly helped create a movement. What do you think about how the importance of American manufacturing jobs played out in last fall’s elections and since then?

MacNeil: I’m a businessman and a manufacturer, not a politician. So I’ll stay away from those particular questions.

But the message is certainly resonating with everyone, and a lot of people are getting on the made-in-America bandwagon. After our 2016 Super Bowl ad, our website witnessed an astounding 756 percent increase in traffic. So certainly what we’re saying does resonate and does help create more business, which is good. That’s why we’re investing again in the Super Bowl commercial.

But I was spending money doing national print advertising and talking about “made in America” well before it became fashionable. People could say I was spending more on messaging than on our products, but I say they go hand-in-hand. We deliver the finest automotive accessories imaginable, but there is value in the message itself, to me. It’s a way to get people thinking about whether to buy an Estwing hammer made in America for $20 or one made 7,000 miles away for $7 that will fall apart after an hour or two—and supporting steel mills in America to make steel for the hammer.

So there’s a bigger picture here. Certainly we want to sell our automotive accessories, but from a patriotic standpoint, we want to get people to think about supporting American manufacturers by buying American goods.

bc: And you’re selling more of these American-made auto accessories abroad these days, aren’t you, not just in America?

MacNeil: We have an operation in Parma, Italy, that has a warehouse and sales office for serving the European continent and the UK, and that’s always been important. We’re very much for international trade, as long as it’s fair trade. You buy 10 from me and I buy 10 from you, and life is wonderful. But if I buy 100,000 from you and you buy 10 from me, I find that unfair. And that’s as far as I’ll go, politically.

WeatherTech Super Bowl Ad

bc: The auto industry is changing quickly—whether it’s EVs or self-driven automobiles. How does that affect WeatherTech?

MacNeil: Whether a vehicle runs on gasoline, hydrogen or water—it doesn’t matter. As long as people have to get into their cars with gunk on their feet, we’re going to supply those vehicles. We’re an OEM supplier to Tesla, for example, and we’re proud of that. We have a number of OEM accounts.

Get more branding insights in our Q&A series