- 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.

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