One of the most memorable and popular Super Bowl commercials Sunday, Microsoft's "Empowering," showed how technology is improving lives, bringing people together and presenting opportunities once thought unimaginable.
And one reason for the ad's popularity was a clip of a soldier serving overseas communicating with his wife back home as she gives birth to their first child.
That couple, Greg and Jennifer Bacon of Bensenville, gathered with their now 3½-year-old son, Dean, and extended family Sunday afternoon to watch the game and their national television debut.
Greg, who now works as a nighttime security supervisor at Holy Family Hospital in Des Plaines, had fallen asleep by the time the ad appeared during the game's fourth quarter, but he saw the commercial Monday on his DVR.
"It still gets me when I see it," he said of his son's birth. "It's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life."
When Dean was born at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village in 2010, Bacon was a U.S. Army corporal serving in Iraq. It would be another three months before he would hold his son for the first time, and nine months before he would return home for good.
But thanks to quick thinking by his military base supervisor and the cooperation of staffers at Alexian Brothers, he was able to witness his son's birth via Skype from more than 6,000 miles away.
The moment was documented in 2010 by a WGN news crew, and a clip that later showed up on YouTube caught the eye of Microsoft. In November, Microsoft officials contacted Alexian Brothers' Matt Wakely asking how they could find the Bacons and use the video of the technology-enhanced birth scene in an upcoming ad.
"It came out of the blue," said Wakely, Alexian's vice president of communications. "But I guess a good story then is still a good story now."
Lawyers from Microsoft and the Screen Actors Guild sought the Bacons' approval and got them to sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose information about the ad before it aired.
"I was a bit skeptical at first," Greg Bacon said. "It took me a while to warm up to the idea."
Hospital officials had to identify every one of the medical personnel in the scene and have each sign a confidentiality agreement as well.
"Our entire staff was in awe at the secrecy and mystery behind all of this," Wakely said. "But when you consider how much goes into these Super Bowl ads, and how expensive they are, you begin to get it."
The clip featuring the Bacons, which shows Greg encouraging his wife through Dean's birth over Skype, appears about halfway through the one-minute ad. The commercial also shows a 5-year-old Rhode Island boy using prosthetic legs to run an obstacle course and play baseball, a blind man using a computer to create art, and a woman who was born deaf using an implant to hear for the first time.
The ad closes with a shot of its narrator, former NFL player Steve Gleason, holding his son in his lap. Gleason, who's lost his ability to speak in his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, narrated through a computerized voice.