- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cavemen, Justin Timberlake, a drug dealer and a model in lingerie all will be sharing the spotlight with the undefeated New England Patriots Sunday as advertisers shell out more dollars than ever to reach television’s biggest audience.

Companies are paying a record $2.7 million for 30 seconds of air time — that’s $90,000 a second — during the Super Bowl, which is expected to draw more than 90 million viewers to Fox.

The time is particularly precious this year because the ongoing writers’ strike has stopped production on many of Hollywood’s popular shows, eliminating key TV advertising opportunities.

Advertisers “can take a quarter’s budget and say, ‘I’m know I’m not going to be spending money until the fall, especially if there’s no Oscars,’ ” said Kathy Sharpe, chief executive officer of Sharpe Partners in New York.

This year’s ad roster includes spots from regular buyers Anheuser-Busch, GoDaddy.com and Pepsico as well as newcomers Planters nuts, Cars.com and Bridgestone Firestone.

Baltimore-based Under Armour is also making its big-game debut this weekend as the athletic-wear company introduces Prototype, a new cross-trainer shoe for men, women and children.

“It’s really bigger than a shoe launch, but really an introduction of our brand to the world,” said Steve Battista, vice president of brand.

The company in late December posted several 15-second “teasers” on its Web site, www.underarmour.com, for the new Prototype campaign. The ad will feature a diverse set of athletes, including former University of Maryland football star Eric Ogbogu, NASCAR driver Carl Edwards and figure skater Kimmie Meissner. Viewers will be directed to the Under Armour’s Web site, where they can order the shoe, which reaches shelves May 3.

“Companies really just have to recognize that when they advertise during the Super Bowl, it has the potential for just automatically increasing their Web site traffic,” said Thomas Harpointner, chief executive officer of AIS Media Inc.

To get more bang for their buck, Super Bowl advertisers are increasingly tying in their Web sites. Frito-Lay asked people to vote at FritoLay.com to choose the best fan-made commercial to air during the game; GoDaddy.com, as in years past, has posted its risque ads on its Web site, including one that was rejected by Fox censors.

“They use a little controversy wisely,” Mr. Harpointner said of the domain registrar. “They can still use those other ads because people will view them just out of curiosity.”

Anheuser-Busch invites visitors to BudBowl.com rate the beer company’s ads — but not before entering their cell-phone numbers.

“A contest or a sweepstakes or something that requires people to fill out a form, they can use that data for future follow-up,” Mr. Harpointner said. “So let’s say 2 or 3 million people hit a Web site and they manage to capture several thousand e-mail addresses, those can be followed up time and time again.”

Anheuser-Busch is airing seven commercials this year, including a spot that depicts cavemen trying to invent the wheel so they can bring beer to a party.

But not every advertiser is taking the slapstick humor route. The federal Office of National Drug Control Policy is back after a four-year hiatus with a 30-second ad warning parents against the dangers of prescription-drug abuse.

“It’s a little unusual,” said David Shoffner of ad agency Pavone, which tracks Super Bowl ads at Spotbowl.com. “This is an entertaining atmosphere. Is this really the right atmosphere for an anti-drug message?”

Also back from a break this year is Victoria’s Secret, which hasn’t advertised since in the Super Bowl since 1999, with a commercial featuring model Adriana Lima.

“Of course, the Janet Jackson thing didn’t help,” Mr. Shoffner joked, referring to the infamous wardrobe incident during the half-time show in 2004.

Miss Jackson’s partner in that show, singer Justin Timberlake, will be back this year but not on the stage. Mr. Timberlake is starring in an ad for Pepsi and is one of several celebrities taking part in ads this year. Sports stars Derek Jeter and Dwyane Wade are helping launch Gatorade’s new low-calorie sports drink G2; Richard Simmons and Alice Cooper are promoting Bridgestone Firestone tires; Brad Pitt is lending his likeness to Dell Inc.; and Carmen Electra is plugging Hershey’s chocolate.

“I think a lot of celebrities are seeing the Super Bowl as a chance to market themselves,” Mr. Shoffner noted.

If there were an award for the most expensive commercial, it would probably be automaker Audi’s. The company re-created a scene from the movie “The Godfather,” with the help of actors from the film. Counting $5.4 million for 60 seconds of air time, between $500,000 and $1.5 million for rights to the film and the production costs, “You’re looking at what could be the most expensive ad ever created,” Mr. Shoffner said.

One pregame ad from Pepsico that’s drummed up a lot of buzz — and praise — is a 60-second spot that’s entirely silent, done in American Sign Language with English subtitles. Featuring real company employees who are deaf, “Bob’s House” is a humorous look at deaf people on their way to a Super Bowl party. Along the way, they are drinking Pepsi, of course.

AMERICA’S MOST WATCHED

Though advertising rates march relentlessly upfield, only one of the five most-watched Super Bowls to date occurred in this decade.

1) Super Bowl XXX (1996), 94.1 million / Cowboys 27, Steelers 17

2) Super Bowl XX (1986), 92.6 million / Bears 46, Patriots 10

3) Super Bowl XXVII (1993), 90.9 million / Cowboys 52, Bills 17

4) Super Bowl XLI (2007), 9.7 million / Colts 29, Bears 17

5)* Super Bowl XXXII (1998), 90.0 million / Broncos 31, Packers 24

* Super Bowl XXVIII (1994), 90.0 million / Cowboys 30, Bills 13

* Super Bowls XXXII and XXVIII are tied for fifth place

Source: Nielsen Media Research

PAY TO PLAY

Since the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I in 1967, the cost to advertise nationally during game breaks has gone from high to astronomical.

1967 $245,000*

1972 421,233

1977 555,980

1982 737,120

1987 1,041,607

1992 1,166,896

1997 1,519,674

2002 2,160,721

2007 2,600,000

2008 2,700,000

* Adjusted for inflation in 2007 dollars

Source: Advertising Age

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