Raising Our Glasses to Vulnerable Heroes: Rookwood Pottery Super Bowl

As we celebrate 10 years of telling stories, we can’t leave out this awesome Super Bowl ad we created in collaboration with Rookwood Pottery and Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens featuring local hero, Fiona the Hippo. Heroes always have wounds and sometimes their weaknesses are exactly what capture the imaginations of crowds.

It turns out there is one thing the world loves more than an underdog story: an underdog story where the hero spends half of her life underwater and half on land.

The already-storied life of Fiona the Hippo added another tragic chapter to her story when her father, Henry, passed away after a long illness. Under normal circumstances, the death of a beloved animal at the zoo might warrant a heartwarming few minutes at the end of the local news. But in Cincinnati, anything that happens to Fiona is not only featured in the headlines, but commemorated with t-shirts, microbrews, and national attention. 

It’s worth all of our time to wonder why Fiona’s story has captured so much attention, especially since so many of us are fighting and working to get anyone to notice us and Fiona can end up on the Tonight Show just by swimming around at the right time and right place.

-Good stories show us the process of overcoming. The whole world has calculated the odds against Fiona since her premature birth and her vulnerable early days. When she gains weight or learns new skills, it’s celebrated because the stakes have been clear from the start about how fragile her little barrel-shaped body has been.

-Good stories connect to universal pains. As if the physical struggles weren’t enough to overcome, Fiona’s mom Bibi seemed lost in the days after Fiona’s birth. The story was no longer just about this little hippo gaining strength, but about her isolation, and her need to belong. The whole world has been able to project their own parental wounds on Fiona, and Bibi, and Henry. When we finally got to see them all swimming (floating? bloating?) together, it meant that maybe we could have meaningful conversations with our own families over Thanksgiving. Now that Henry has passed, we will probably add even more layers to the story just as Fiona grows and adds layers of adorable fat to her now-thriving body.

-Good stories keep us going when the other stories are hard. In a divided world, it’s nice to know that we can all agree on Fiona. I’m sure Fiona’s celebrity-status has something to do with our desperation for anything hopeful or universal. She is the distraction we need right now, like the puppy your parents get you to distract you from their divorce. But even more than that, she is our reminder that against all odds, even great loss, we can sometimes rise above the water.