Super-Duper Ad Run Ends Commercials Flat at $2.1M


HAS the Super Bowl gone soft?

A weak advertising market, dead dot-coms and the fear of a recession may have forced CBS to charge less money for Super Bowl ads than ABC did last year, according to Advertising Age, the advertising industry’s bible.

The commercials, which are sometimes given more attention than the game itself, are typically the most watched television ads of the whole year. But this time, the price for a 30-second ad during the game is about the same or – at best – only slightly greater than last year’s average $2.1 million, according to some reports.

“The pricing is flat this year,” a knowledgeable ad agency exec told Advertising Age. “There are some people in there paying over $2 million [for a 30-second spot].

“But there are a fair few that are under $2 million. The last few spots left will have to be for under $2 million because they are all in the fourth quarter,” the source said.

The picture looks dismal only when compared to 1999 – when rates jumped 23 percent -and last year – when the price of a spot shot up 38 percent.

CBS strongly disputes the figures and claims that it stands to reap at least $150 million in Super Bowl ad sales this year – about 12 percent more than ABC did last year.

“CBS officials are very confident that the network will achieve the highest per-unit price and the highest total in Super Bowl history,” a source close to the company said.

A CBS spokesman declined to be specific about the numbers.

Overall, the network may pull off the most profitable night in TV history – spots that will air after the game ends during the debut of “Survivor: Australian Outback” are selling like hotcakes.

Still, less than two weeks before the big football game, CBS hasn’t sold about 10 percent of its ad time – a big blow to Madison Avenue’s confidence. Meanwhile, industry sources say CBS is likely to announce it has sold out on ad space later this week.

So why the dispute?

Ad experts say due to talk of a potential recession and the expectation that advertisers will buy less commercial air time this year, the usual assortment of deep-pocketed Super Bowl sponsors did not scramble for the precious ad time as usual.

The end result is that advertisers appear to have more room than usual to bargain. Also, the thinning of the dot-com herd in 2000 will have a major impact on Super Bowl XXXV.

While 17 dot-coms bought time during last year’s game, only three will advertise this year. Most of the others have gone out of business.

Ironically, two of this years’ dot-com ads are from job-search sites, and