Advertising's Super Sunday Viewers of Super Bowl Will See Fewer Dot-Coms, More of 'Cedric'

By Mark Baumgartner

Among the Anheuser-Busch spots is a new campaign featuring a dancing man named Cedric, who company officials hope will become a new topic of watercooler conversation. (Handout)

NEW YORK – Set aside recession fears, shrinking advertising budgets and the demise of dot-coms – on Sunday, CBS expects the biggest one-day revenue haul in TV history.

The Viacom-owned broadcast network says it will rake in $150 million for the broadcast of Super Bowl XXXV, expected to be the year’s most watched television show.

But the NFL championship game is not the only blockbuster airing on the network that day. Following the game will be the debut of Survivor II: the Australian Outback. Nine advertisers have signed on as exclusive sponsors of the 14-week Survivor series, including some Super Bowl advertisers.

According to the network, that means viewers will stay glued to their chairs late in the game regardless of what’s happening on the field, as they wait for the start of the Survivor sequel. That scenario helped bolster the network’s negotiations on ad rates for the game’s fourth quarter and the post-game show.

CBS insiders said the network managed to get an average of $2.3 million for the 60 half-minute ads in the game, up 4.5 percent from the record $2.2 million average Walt Disney Co.’s ABC claimed a year ago. By comparison, last Sunday’s ads on the top-rated CBS show, 60 Minutes, seen in 13 million households, took in only roughly a tenth of the Super Bowl rate, according to a network official.

“In the fragmented [media] universe, the highest rated events are increasingly desirable to advertisers,” says Dana McClintock, the network’s vice president for advertising.

Create a Buzz, Build Brand Awareness

At least 120 million people are expected to tune into this year’s contest between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens in Tampa, Fla. And for many, the ads are as much of a lure as the game, creating a competition among advertisers as heated as the one on the gridiron.

But some media buyers have expressed skepticism that CBS would be able to match, in advertising terms, what ABC got last year, due to the softening advertising climate and the absence of free-spending Internet start-ups, which used the Super Bowls in 1999 and 2000 to attempt to create a buzz and build brand awareness.

In contrast to last year, when 17 dot-coms ran Super Bowl ads, claiming nearly 40 percent of the commercials on the broadcast, this year just three dot-coms are advertising on the Super Bowl broadcast – the online brokerage E*Trade Group and online job-search rivals and, owned by TMP Worldwide.

Third-time return advertiser, for example, called the game “a great opportunity to reach a broad audience.” spokeswoman Kellie Buckley notes the company is using the Super Bowl to launch the first three commercials in a five-ad campaign, each of which features lighthearted vignettes from a job-seeker’s life.

‘Size Isn’t Everything’

But merely entertaining viewers does not justify the huge sums advertisers are paying to appear on the broadcast, suggests Debby Goldberg, director of marketing and public relations for Interbrand, a New York consultancy that helps companies and investors understand the contribution brands make to business.

Argues Goldberg: “For a company trying to build brand awareness, [the Super Bowl’s] a great opportunity. But it doesn’t necessarily create a relationship with the consumer.”

Yes, the Super Bowl delivers a huge audience, she acknowledges, but it’s too wildly diverse for effective communication. “Size isn’t everything,” Goldberg says.

And a popular ad is certainly no guarantee of business success. Take Inc., which ran an ad during last year’s Super Bowl that showed its sock-puppet mascot urging people to stay home with their pets and buy their supplies online.

Despite the heightened awareness generated by the ad, is one of three dot-com advertisers in last year’s game that is no longer in business.

Spotlight on Old Economy Advertisers

Look instead this year for more old economy companies in this year’s broadcast. Major advertisers include such household names as Pepsico, FedEx, Visa and Volkswagen.

Anheuser-Busch will be the heaviest advertiser and the sole beer advertiser for the 13th consecutive year. The beer maker has four minutes of ad time and will likely air eight 30-second spots, including the first one after the kickoff.

Among the Anheuser-Busch spots is a new campaign featuring a dancing man named Cedric, who company officials hope will become a new topic of watercooler conversation ala the “Whassup” crew that debuted at last year’s Super Bowl.

Anheuser-Busch had new “Whassup” ads prepared for the Sunday’s broadcast but reportedly had not decided whether to air them during the game or during the pre-game or post-game broadcasts.

“You’re going to get roundly criticized if you use the same ads on the Super Bowl,” admits Bob Lachky, vice president for brand management at Anheuser-Busch. “We always introduce new ads on the Super Bowl; that’s part of the game.”