- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

Super Bowl XXXVI isn't the only game in town for advertisers this year.
Although prices have dropped about 8 percent to an estimated $1.9 million for a 30-second spot, some advertisers are opting instead to stretch their dollars further during other events such as the 2002 Winter Olympics.
But that doesn't mean fans won't be entertained as advertising regulars such as Pepsi, Budweiser, ETrade, Hotjobs.com and Monster.com pull out all the stops for memorable commercial breaks.
"This is the one program that is watched as much for the ads as for the program," said Marc Karasu, vice president of advertising and marketing for Hotjobs.com, the online career portal, which is returning for the fourth consecutive year with a 30-second spot. "You have a captive audience."
The Super Bowl is the most-watched event of the year, drawing 84 million viewers nationwide in 2001.
About 95 percent of the 30 minutes of commercial time during Sunday night's matchup of the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams had been sold as of yesterday, said Lou D'Ermilio, senior vice president of media relations for Fox Sports Network, which is broadcasting the game.
Fox has had trouble selling all of its time this year as the recession has kept a tight belt on ad spending and some advertisers are going elsewhere such as the 17-day Olympics, which begin Feb. 8, the Grammy Awards in February and the Academy Awards in March.
"Because of the economy, sales have been slower and steadier," said Mr. D'Ermilio, who expects the rest of the spots to be sold without having to drastically drop the price.
The average $1.9 million price tag is a dip from last year's estimated price, which ranged from $2 million to $2.3 million.
Slightly more than 10 percent of people tuning in Sunday will be watching just for the ads, according to a recent survey conducted by Baltimore advertising agency Eisner Communications. That's up about 2 percent from last year.
"There's no bigger media event than the Super Bowl," said Kim Kosak, director of advertising and sales promotions for Cadillac, which will debut new products in commercials set to Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll."
Anheuser-Busch, this year's biggest advertiser, will have 10 spots, but the company isn't revealing any details about the ads, including the possibility of another variation of the popular "Wasssup?" campaign.
Britney Spears and ETrade's chimp return, but absent will be Cingular Wireless, Volkswagen and Electronic Data Service's quirky spoofs such as last year's running of the squirrels or the cat herders from Super Bowl 2000. First-time Super Bowl advertisers include Yahoo, sandwich chain Quizno's Corp. and H&R; Block.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is also expected to air two anti-terror ads during the game, according to a report yesterday in Advertising Age. The trade publication says the two 30-second spots will suggest that illegal drug sales may finance terrorism.
Monster.com is giving some of its advertising budget to former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. One 30-second spot will feature Time's Man of the Year thanking Americans for their support after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Giuliani does not endorse Monster, but the ad does tell viewers that the time was donated by the Internet career portal.
"We're not going bankrupt if people don't like it," said Andrew McKelvey, chairman and chief executive of TMP Worldwide, the New York parent company of Monster.com. "This is a unique opportunity."
EDS used the Super Bowl the past two years to "get people's attention and tell people who we are," said LaWanda Burrell, vice president of global advertising at EDS. "We achieved that goal."
Now the Plano,Texas, global information technology company is turning to the Olympics to air four new commercials more than 50 times total to highlight EDS' services.
"In the Super Bowl you only get one shot," Ms. Burrell said. "This is more efficient."
NBC officials did not return a request for information about ad purchases during the Olympics.
Officials at ETrade, the online brokerage service that made its Super Bowl debut in 2000, say their Super Bowl ads have been so successful that they are returning again this year with a 30-second spot featuring their famous chimp.
"It's really an important part of our overall marketing strategy," said Connie Dotson, chief communications and knowledge officer at ETrade. "And if it works well, keep it going."
Pepsi is keeping with its same strategy with commercials starring navel-baring pop queen Britney Spears. One 90-second spot will air during the first quarter and another 30-second spot, being voted on by viewers this week, will air in the game's second quarter. Voters can get a glimpse of behind-the-scenes footage from the commercial on Pepsi's Web site.
Levi Strauss & Co. also gave viewers a chance to vote for how the company will spend its ad dollars. Voters could choose among three ads on their Web site and the winning 30-second ad is scheduled to air during the second quarter.
Advertising officials agree there is pressure to have a commercial that stands up to the extravagant, outrageous and creative formulas of the past.
"There's no question that advertisers elect not to be in the Super Bowl because their creative isn't up to par," said David Blum, senior vice president at Eisner. "There is an extremely high bar for [advertisers] to reach."
The ads leave such an impression that viewers usually are still discussing them the next day.
H&R; Block, making its first appearance during the Super Bowl, kept that in mind when it hired Ethan and Joel Coen the brains behind movies such as "Fargo" and "The Big Lebowski" to produce the spot, which will feature the Beatles' "Tax Man."
"We're not going to have the greatest laugh of the Super Bowl ads just to have the greatest laugh," said David Byers, chief marketing officer at H&R; Block. "It's far too expensive for that."

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