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Oatly CEO won't reprise his Super Bowl ad appearance 'for everyone's sake'

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A lone man sits at a keyboard in a rolling field of oats, singing: "It's like milk, but made for humans... Wow, wow, no cow." That was the much-pilloried but also curiously effective Super Bowl ad for Oatly, the plant-based milk born in Sweden, that made its public-market debut Thursday

Oatly CEO Toni Petersson was the singer in the ad, a performance he said he doesn't expect to repeat. 

"Let's hope not, for everyone's sake," Petersson said, when Yahoo Finance Live asked if he'll continue to be the pitchman. Regarding his Super Bowl commercial performance, he said, "I took one for the team." 

Oatly has raised $1.4 billion in its initial public offering, and started trading under the symbol OTLY. Shares opened at $22.12.

Oatly's quirky marketing strategy has helped fuel its growth. The company's revenue more than doubled last year from 2019 to $421.4 billion. The prospectus for its IPO highlights marketing as a competitive strength: "We have torn down the conventional corporate approach to brand building and have developed a voice that is human, compelling and honest. Our advertisements are bold and eye-catching, meant to drive conversation among consumers, while challenging norms and outdated industry practices." 

The oat milk's image has also gotten a likely boost from its cadre of celebrity backers, including Oprah Winfrey and Natalie Portman. Starbucks offers it as an accompaniment to its coffees, and it's available for sale in stores like Target. 

Oatly containers are displayed at a grocery store, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in North Miami, Fla. Oatly, the world’s largest oat milk company, will raise $1.4 billion in an initial public offering Thursday, May 20 on the Nasdaq stock exchange. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
Oatly containers are displayed at a grocery store, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in North Miami, Fla. Oatly, the world’s largest oat milk company, will raise $1.4 billion in an initial public offering Thursday, May 20 on the Nasdaq stock exchange. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Back to that Super Bowl ad: in a sly marketing tie-in, the company offered free T-shirts afterwards that read, "I totally hated that Oatly commercial." 

Petersson might not have plans to take to the mic again, but he also doesn't plan to adjust the marketing strategy after the IPO. He pointed out that there's no dedicated marketing department at Oatly. "It is created by us, in-house, and that's not going to change," he said.

Julie Hyman is the co-anchor of Yahoo Finance Live, weekdays 9am-11am ET.

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