Lavish Ads Back at Super Bowl

Some Viewers Tune in Only to Watch the Ads

By Skip Wollenberg The Associated Press

NEW YORK – Super Bowl advertising legend Apple Computer will return after 14 years. The World Wrestling Federation will make mayhem during a fictional day at its offices. And lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret will invite viewers to watch its sexy fashion show on the Internet. These are among the standouts in this year’s Super Bowl, the biggest advertising event of the year. About 30 companies will pay a record average price of $1.6 million for each of the 58 half-minute commercial slots on Sunday’s telecast from Miami. That is $53,333 per commercial second, and a hefty 23 percent premium over last year’s average. The price is roughly three times the highest-rated TV series in prime time. Despite the cost, the game makes a compelling buy, largely because of the national holiday atmosphere surrounding the game.

Some Just Watch the Ads

The research firm Eisner & Associates said its survey of 1,000 adults last weekend indicates about 7 percent of the audience tunes in just to see the ads and more than one-third expect to discuss them Monday morning.

“It’s not just the Super Bowl of football, it’s the Super Bowl of advertising,” said Jerry Solomon, who buys commercial time for clients of SFM Media. “Everybody talks about the commercials.”

Apple Computer Inc. is widely credited for making the Super Bowl a commercial showcase with its 1984 ad that introduced the easy-to-use Macintosh computer to a public baffled by complicated machines from rivals. Apple also advertised the following year, but has been absent since then.

HAL Talks About Y2K

Its new ad features the talking computer HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and is set some time in the future. HAL reminds a visitor named Dave that “computers began to misbehave” in the year 2000, creating a “global economic disruption” because they were not programmed to recognize the new millennium. But HAL notes Macintosh models alone worked perfectly and asks, “You like your Macintosh better than me, don’t you, Dave?”

“We are not trying to outdo ourselves or other people,” said Apple spokeswoman Rhona Hamilton. “It’s a very topical message.”

Heavenly Bodies

A first-time Super Bowl advertiser, the World Wrestling Federation, gives a look at a “typical” day at its offices. Bodies crash through windows and office partitions while a studly looking man and a shapely woman share an embrace. In the midst of the chaos, WWF stars like the Undertaker, the Rock, Sable and Stone Cold Steve Austin cooly try to dispel “misperceptions” about violence and sex during WWF matches.

The most surprising newcomer may be Victoria’s Secret, previewing its spring fashion show on the Internet. The ad opens by saying the two Super Bowl teams won’t be there but “you won’t care.” It then shows several models in revealing outfits from last year’s show. “We want to get women to smile and men to take notice,” said Ed Razek, chief marketing officer for Victoria’s Secret, a division of Intimate Brands.

Bud Is Biggest

Budweiser’s Louie the Lizard, the architect of a failed attempt to electrocute the Bud frogs on last year’s Super Bowl telecast, gets a tongue-lashing from the frogs this year. The St. Louis-based brewer is the single largest advertiser on this year’s Super Bowl with five minutes and 15 seconds. It reportedly paid as much as $2 million per half-minute and will be the only brewer on the telecast. The company has declined to reveal exactly what it paid.

Federal Express has an ad that shows what can happen when you hire a rival courier, it shows a hockey crowd screaming for the arrival of the Stanley Cup championship trophy only to get a box of donkey feed. The cup was shipped by mistake to a rural town in Bolivia.

Candy, Crackers and Cola

Among other regular advertisers, M&M’s will introduce a crispy variety of its famous candy and Frito-Lay will pitch Cracker Jack and new barbecued Doritos.

Pepsi-Cola has scaled back to two half-minute ads after running five last year. Spokesman Jon Harris said the company will debut a new theme for its flagship Pepsi brand closer to the summer season.

Coca-Cola Co., the biggest soft drink company, is absent as are other veterans such as Nike Inc., IBM Corp. and McDonald’s Corp.

Rookies include two Internet job site operators, Ltd. and TMP Worldwide’s Fox is starting pre-game coverage more than seven hours ahead of the kickoff and expects to generate a total of $150 million in revenue.