Two acclaimed artists, known for work that promotes Baltimore culture, each put on for Charm City in separate commercials that aired during Super Bowl LIV on Sunday night—perhaps the biggest spotlight available to advertisers both locally and nationally.
Rapper and filmmaker Tedra Wilson, who performs as TT The Artist, scored a new ad for tax preparation software TurboTax. Her original pump-up song for the commercial is called “All People are Tax People,” according to a tweet from TurboTax, and has Wilson rapping lyrics about tax preparation (“English, Spaniglish, Español, we all speak ‘refund,' go and get yours!”) over clips of people dancing in a way similar to the “crazy legs” style native to Baltimore club music. Wilson said that the song and advertisement incorporated elements of New Orleans bounce music—another Black dance music genre, like Baltimore club, that influences her sound. The advertisement was choreographed by Sherrie Silver, who also choreographed the award-winning “This is America" by Childish Gambino, and directed by Calmatic, who directed Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” video.
Wilson said the Walker agency approached her in November about working on a commercial for TurboTax. She created the song in a matter of weeks, with New Orleans bounce being the guiding style, and only learned in late December that it would soundtrack a Super Bowl ad.
“The whole concept came from [the client] being fanatics over the culture and also trying to show diversity and appeal to a younger demographic,” she said.
Noting that she received critiques and concerns from online commentators about possible appropriation of black culture by a corporate entity, she said that she understood concerns but still saw this ad as a chance to advocate for that culture.
“I’ve shared with a lot of people who may show concerns, who feel like they’re stealing our culture: Listen, it’s not what’s happening,” she said. “I was on set, it was beautiful...at the end of the day, it was a very diverse set, and somebody brought the idea to the table who had been impacted by the culture.”
Baltimore-area viewers also got to see an advertisement for Visit Baltimore, a city-affiliated tourism and marketing entity, in which local writer and poet Kondwani Fidel did a spoken-word voiceover. In “Beneath the Shell,” Fidel compares the city’s hidden charms to that of a signature Baltimore crab while clips of the local dining scene, concerts, Light City and other local attractions flash on screen.
“If you’ve never eaten a crab before, you won’t know how by just looking at it,” he said. “You have to sit at the table, listen to what people tell you and follow. Once you open the crab, you’ll get hit with a blast of flavor and discover all of the great things the crab has to offer."
Fidel said that he was working with Visit Baltimore on rebranding and marketing projects when he wrote the poem as a way of trying to describe his feelings about the city. The piece ultimately became the face of Visit Baltimore’s new campaign to promote the city. The marketing entity originally planned to run the ad during the Super Bowl when much of the city thought the Ravens might play in it; when those hopes were dashed in the AFC divisional round, they still kept the plans.
“It’s just like I was saying in the poem: if you really want to experience Baltimore, all around the board—not just the Harbor, or not just Fells Point, then you need to get out there and immerse yourself in the culture.”