- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

Humor and celebrity appearances from the likes of the Osbournes, Willie Nelson, Jackie Chan and Michael Jordan will take center stage in the commercials during Super Bowl XXXVII on Sunday. Advertisers are dishing out an estimated $2.2 million each for 30-second spots on ABC, giving them a chance to be seen by more than half of the United States. The Super Bowl, which is the most-watched TV event of the year, attracted nearly 89 million viewers in 2002.
The $2.2 million cost is the most-expensive price tag since ABC hosted the game in 2000, when a 30-second spot went for about $2.1 million. Last year, the 30-second ads cost $1.9 million on Fox. In 2001, the figure was $2.05 million on CBS
Yesterday ABC had only a few spaces left to fill of the 61 slots available.
Despite offering over-the-top creative work, a 30-second Super Bowl ad isn't necessarily money spent wisely, said Kelly O'Keefe, chairman of Emergence Labs, a brand strategy and marketing firm with headquarters in Richmond.
"Two million is a lot to spend to create an impression," Mr. O'Keefe said. "[Thirty seconds] is not enough time to buy our allegiance, our sales and certainly not our brand loyalty."
But the creative work whoever the advertiser may be has gotten viewers' attention enough to tune in, in anticipation of the next big ad. About 14 percent of American adults will watch the Super Bowl just for the ads, according to Eisner Communications' 2003 Super Bowl Ad Survey. Slightly more than 10 percent last year said they would tune just to see the commercials.
"When you're in the Super Bowl, your advertising is scrutinized," said Karl Ploeger, vice president of creative and media services at H&R; Block, which will have one 30-second spot Sunday. "There's more attention paid to advertising than to the game in some cases."
Viewers will see many of the same advertisers as in the past, including Anheuser-Busch, which continues to be king of commercials with 11 30-second spots for Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob Ultra.
Hollywood will push hard for its upcoming movies, including giving the audience a glimpse of what the new Incredible Hulk will look like in the movie "The Hulk."
Pepsico Inc. is hitting its 18th consecutive Super Bowl with 2 minutes of ads for Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Sierra Mist. Monster.com and Yahoo's Hotjobs.com go head-to-head for the fifth straight year.
"The Super Bowl is an unofficial holiday," said Marc Karasu, vice president of advertising for Hotjobs. "It's a huge opportunity to communicate with people."
While the game matches up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders, advertisers are creating matchups of their own some creative, some unusual.
Pepsi is adding a twist with the foul-mouthed Osbournes and the squeaky-clean Osmonds in a 45-second Pepsi Twist commercial.
Gatorade makes its Super Bowl debut with a fantasy one-on-one game between the 39-year-old Jordan and a 23-year-old version of himself. The ad first ran on New Year's Day.
Jordan also stars in a Hanes' Tagless T-shirt ad that features martial arts actor Jackie Chan doing battle with the shirt tag. The 30-second spot was created by the Martin Agency in Richmond.
Laura Burrows, a Hanes spokeswoman, said the Super Bowl is "a real opportunity to make a connection" with the men in the audience who are already Hanes customers.
Quiznos Sub and H&R; Block are back for their sophomore appearances.
Last year, Quiznos kicked off a 12-month campaign at the Super Bowl with quirky ads, including one in which a diner was hit with a dart
. This year, Quiznos is introducing its new spokesman, chef Jimmy Lambatos, who is obsessed with finding the perfect ingredients for his sandwich and ignores everything else in his life including his pet bird.
Last year's Super Bowl ads "put Quiznos on the map," said Stacie Lange, vice president for public relations. "This year, we're going deeper with our message. We still want a memorable ad, but we want to get across the quality of our subs."
Quiznos reported a double-digit sales increases for the three weeks after last year's Super Bowl.
Singer Willie Nelson known for some tax troubles is pitching H&R; Block's Double Check Challenge, a service that reviews past tax returns for mistakes or overlooked deductions.
Other advertisers are getting audiences involved and offering prizes.
Online users can vote through tomorrow for the ending of a 45-second Sierra Mist spot, giving them the chance to win prizes worth $75,000.
Levi Strauss & Co. is using 60 seconds to introduce its Type 1 jeans and to help solve a four-week mystery surrounding the hiding place of a pair of gold-and-jewel-laden jeans. The winner of the contest will get a prize package worth $150,000, including the $85,000 pair of jeans.
Some companies say the Super Bowl isn't the best place for them to advertise and have chosen other programs and events that fit into their marketing strategy.
ETrade, which made its Super Bowl debut in 2000, is opting out this year. The online brokerage service pulled its chimpanzee and its name from the halftime show to sponsor the Rolling Stones' world tour instead.
Coca-Cola chose to debut its new "Real" ad campaign featuring stars such as Penelope Cruz, Courteney Cox Arquette and David Arquette, during the American Music Awards on Jan. 13. The soft-drink giant hasn't advertised on the Super Bowl for years.
"There is so much clutter," said Susan McDermott, spokeswoman for Coca-Cola. "We thought [the American Music Awards broadcast] was a better opportunity for us to stand out."

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