- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

The ads during Super Bowl XXXIX won’t be as risque as last year’s flatulent horse, crotch-biting dog or the breast-baring halftime show.

The National Football League and Fox, the network carrying the premier sports event, has kept a careful watch over Sunday’s advertising.

The network rejected an ad for Airborne, a cold remedy, which showed a few seconds of 84-year-old Mickey Rooney’s naked backside. And Anheuser-Busch, the game’s biggest advertiser, nixed an ad that spoofs singer Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during last year’s halftime show.

“There’s no doubt the NFL and Fox are being a little more protective of the Super Bowl,” said Greg Clausen, executive vice president and director of C-K Media, the media planning and buying arm of ad agency Cramer-Krasselt, which produced three 30-second spots for CareerBuilder.com this year.

Last year’s halftime show triggered a crackdown on indecency on the airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission, which received 530,828 complaints, slapped CBS, the network that carried the game, with a $550,000 fine for airing the incident on its broadcast stations.

The FCC proposed a dozen fines last year, all against broadcast television and radio stations but none against advertisers.

“Marketers understand what the mood is,” said Lou D’Ermillo, a spokesman for Fox Sports told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t think anybody who is at the cutting edge of where pop culture is wants to subject themselves to the type of scrutiny” given the halftime show last year and several ads that were offensive to some, he said.

Advertisers are paying a record $2.4 million for a 30-second spot during Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s $80,000 a second.

It’s no surprise, though. The Super Bowl is the most-watched TV event of the year, attracting nearly 90 million viewers last year.

“For the right advertiser, it’s an incredibly powerful tool,” Mr. Clausen said.

As of earlier this week, Fox had just a few ad slots left.

Many viewers tune in primarily for the commercials. In a survey conducted by strategic communications firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates Inc., nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said they would rather miss some of the game than any of the commercials.

Advertisers are being careful not to cross the line into inappropriateness this year, but some say that’s not going to get in the way of the quality of the work.

“We still set out to do the best we can and be noticed,” said Tanin Blumberg, account manager at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners of San Francisco, which has created Super Bowl ads for Anheuser-Busch and nut company Emerald of California.

Advertisers still hope to break through the clutter with commercials for everything from countertops and soda to nuts and credit cards.

Viewers will see the usual heavy hitters. Anheuser-Busch has bought five minutes of air time throughout the game. Pepsi-Cola Co. has 2 minutes of commercials. And several movie studios are shelling out millions of dollars to promote their blockbuster hopefuls.

Some advertisers, such as Cialis, may still intrigue viewers. The erectile-dysfunction drug, which made its Super Bowl debut last year, will return with a 60-second spot featuring couples in romantic settings and the song “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes.

The company’s warning of a possible side effect got many viewers’ attention during the last Super Bowl. The company is required to reveal it in its advertising, so viewers can expect the same side-effect warning again this year.

Degree for Men will make its Super Bowl debut with an ad featuring “the Mama’s Boy,” who is part of the “In-Action Heroes” — a group that doesn’t take risks and therefore doesn’t need Degree for Men.

There are plenty of other first-timers.

MBNA, which has never had a national commercial, will kick off a new branding campaign with a 30-second spot featuring singer Gladys Knight and a voice-over from actor John Travolta.

Emerald of California will use fictional characters including Santa Claus, a unicorn and the Easter Bunny in its ad created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

The commercial features a father who tries to avoid sharing his Emerald nuts with his daughter by claiming if he does, those mythological characters will disappear. But each of them appears in the living room telling him he is wrong.

“We wanted it to be good humor and off beat, but not off-color,” said Sandra McBride, vice president of marketing for Emerald of California.

Cosentino USA, a Houston maker of Silestone, a quartz-surface countertop, spent $1 million creating an ad that features sports celebrities Dennis Rodman, Mike Ditka, William “the Refrigerator” Perry and Jim McMahon discussing which countertop color best reflects their personalities.

“We wanted to have a big bang,” said Roberto Contreras, president of Cosentino USA. “The celebrities give us credibility.”

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