Girls Play With the Big Boys

By Diane Anderson

SAN FRANCISCO (The Industry Standard) – There’s no more manly sport than football and no more guy-oriented activity than the Super Bowl. It’s a captive audience that Madison Avenue loves. The annual rite has become the showcase of choice for the debut of big, splashy ad campaigns that tend to be heavy on guy products like beer and 4x4s — along with a heaping helping of dot-coms.

There’s something unusual on the ad roster for this year’s game, which airs Jan. 30. Oxygen Media, the cable and Web operation geared toward women, is paying $2 million for a spot in the second quarter.

Victoria’s Secret ran an ad during 1999’s Super Bowl — but that commercial was aimed at men who buy lingerie for women, or read the catalog for its articles, or something.

“We believe we are the first true women’s brand to advertise in the Super Bowl,” says Tricia Melton, marketing VP, which launches its cable network Feb. 2. “It’s the best place to reach women en masse.”

She has a point. Nielsen numbers show that 42.8 percent of the 83.7 million viewers of the 1999 game were women.

“Advertising in this venue says Oxygen thinks women can mix it up with men,” says Alan Johnson of Mullen Advertising, the firm behind Oxygen’s ads.

“We partly did it because it’s a completely unexpected place to be,” says Melton. “It took a lot of ovaries to do this.”