- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Impotency, tax problems and toilet paper are among the myriad subjects being tackled during Super Bowl XXXVIII on Sunday.

Advertisers are shelling out a record $2.3 million for a 30-second chance to grab the attention of the super-size audience. The Super Bowl, which is the most-watched TV event of the year, attracted 88.6 million viewers last year.

The CBS-televised game, pitting the Carolina Panthers against the New England Patriots, will feature more than 60 spots from advertisers vying for a prestigious spot in Super Bowl advertising history.

“The Super Bowl is still the biggest showcase event with the most viewers,” said David Blum, senior vice president of Eisner Communications, a Baltimore advertising agency. “Every company has the potential to be remembered for a very long time.”

Advertisers hope to duplicate the success of Apple Computer, which ran an ad during the Super Bowl 20 years ago to introduce its Macintosh. The spot, based on Big Brother, ran just once and never showed the product it was advertising.

“It revolutionized advertising,” Mr. Blum said. “People really started to understand what the Super Bowl could do.”

This year, 9 percent of adults in the United States will tune into the game just to watch the ads, according to the annual Eisner Communications Super Bowl Ad Survey. That is down from 14 percent last year.

But Mr. Blum says the decline does not mean the Super Bowl has become a bad advertising investment. Instead, it is more of a reflection of viewers “not having remembered any great Super Bowl ads from last year,” he said.

The lack of enthusiasm for the ads also could be a result of the game, which features teams that don’t particularly inspire “purist fans,” Mr. Blum said.

“There’s not a tremendous buzz about the game or the teams,” he said. Boston is the nation’s sixth-largest television market, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc. Charlotte, N.C., is No. 28.

But that doesn’t mean advertisers will try any less to make an impression on viewers.

Anheuser-Busch, the official beer company for the game, is once again king of advertisers with five minutes total of ads, including one spot in which a donkey wants to become one of the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Pepsi-Cola Co. bought three minutes worth of ad time to be split among its Pepsi, Pepsi ITunes and Sierra Mist brands. America Online purchased 90 seconds of ad time and is the sponsor for the halftime show. The Sterling, Va., Internet service provider is highlighting its TopSpeed technology, which speeds dial-up or broadband downloads.

“There are few events a year when all Americans do the same thing — Fourth of July is one, the Super Bowl is another,” said Ruth Sarfaty, an AOL spokeswoman. “This is a great opportunity to launch a new product.”

Three pharmaceutical companies will tout their miracle drugs for erectile dysfunction. And Willie Nelson is returning as H&R; Block’s spokesman.

Staples will make its first Super Bowl appearance with a 30-second spot featuring Randy, an office supply manager who bribes his co-workers with file folders, ink cartridges and paper clips in return for baked goods. One fed-up co-worker discovers Staples and turns the tables on Randy with help from a tough guy played by character actor Joe Viterelli from the movie “Analyze This.”

Charmin’s first Super Bowl spot will feature the Charmin bear — introduced into the company’s advertising in 2000 — interacting with a football team during a key play. ESPN football commentators Joe Theisman and Paul Maguire provide the play-by-play for the 30-second spot, which will air during the first half of the game.

Charmin won the Super Bowl airtime through a Procter & Gamble internal competition that pitted the company’s brands and their ad agencies against each other for a shot at the Super Bowl.

Monster is returning for its sixth Super Bowl appearance with one pre-game ad and two commercials during the game.

“Capturing millions of Super Bowl viewers has proven beneficial in the past and we are optimistic … this year we will be just as effective,” said Jeff Taylor, founder of the Internet job search company.

Movie studios won’t be sparing any expense when promoting their upcoming blockbusters. The major movie studios are shelling out at least $16 million to advertise their movies, but won’t reveal any details.

Warner Bros. has bought at least two spots and probably will showcase an upcoming spring or summer flick like “Scooby Doo II,” “Starsky & Hutch” or “Cat Woman” with Halle Berry.

Studios are “basically buying an attentive audience and running a movie trailer,” said Chuck Tomkovick, professor of management and marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Mr. Tomkovick, with associate professor of management and marketing Rama Yelkur, have studied the effectiveness of Super Bowl advertising for movies. Research shows that of the 18 Super Bowl-promoted movies that ran during the 2002 and 2003 games, 15 were No. 1 at the U.S. box office during their opening weekends, two came in second and one premiered at No. 4.

During 1998 to 2001, movies advertised on the Super Bowl grossed 50 percent more the first weekend, the first week and during their total box-office run compared with major movies that were not advertised during the Super Bowl, the study found.

“All else being equal, we know from this study that spending $2 million for a movie ad in the Super Bowl will pay off,” Mr. Tomkovick said.

The Super Bowl will have its share of cause-related advertising, despite rejecting an ad from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that showed scantily clad women, and a political ad attacking President Bush from Moveon.org. The liberal Internet group’s ad was rejected because it violated CBS policy against advocacy ads, according to Advertising Age.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy will air two 30-second spots as part of a new campaign that urges parents and children to get help for other children using drugs. American Legacy Foundation will air a new spot that asks the audience to imagine if other manufacturing companies made products like tobacco and shows flavored ice containing shards of glass.

Viacom, which owns CBS, and the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation will air a public-service announcement during the pre-game show as part of the Know HIV/AIDS global media campaign.

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