ABC Super Bowl ad winner
By NANCY DILLON
DAILY NEWS BUSINESS WRITER
Super Bowl advertising is making a comeback this year, with air time selling at record levels and advertisers tackling plenty of flash and humor.
ABC already has sold 90% of its 61 30-second spots, sources said, with each spot selling for the same record $2.1 million fee collected in 2000.
“We are right where we should be at this time, with only a few spots left,” said Ed Erhardt, president for customer marketing at ABC Sports and sibling ESPN. “We expect strong demand for the remaining spots and are talking to a few advertisers right now.”
Last year, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks and a national economic recession, Fox averaged $1.9 million per Super Bowl spot.
“This year is much more of a return to normal,” said Advertising Age editor Scott Donaton. “A year ago the creation of ads followed so close after 9/11 many advertisers were afraid of offending people. They just weren’t sure where the line was.”
Now the line’s just evaporating. This year’s H&R Block ad is a comical look at country crooner Willie Nelson’s infamous tax problems – marking a departure from the artsy, Coen Brothers-directed “Tax Man” ad H&R floated last year.
“It seems this year we’re all getting back on our feet, getting back to humor,” said David Byers, chief marketing officer at the tax counseling service.
H&R’s new 30-second Super Bowl spot shows the famously hairy Nelson learning he owes millions in unexpected taxes and then taking a job as a pitchman for Mr. Smoothie shaving cream to raise cash.
“I’m not sure we would have seen [the Willie Nelson ad] last year,” said Kellie Buckley, spokeswoman for online career service Monster, another Super Bowl advertiser. “We were all so hypersensitive.”
Buckley said Monster’s ad this year also will be sassier than the Olympics-themed spot the company ran last year, though she declined to give details.
Soft drink giant PepsiCo, meanwhile, has purchased a two-and-a-half minute chunk of Super Bowl airtime. The No. 2 soft drink maker is reportedly preparing a Pepsi Twist spot starring kooky rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his family.
And a Spike Lee-directed Pepsi ad featuring pop singer Beyonce Knowles, frontwoman to Destiny’s Child, also is in the works. But a company spokesman would only confirm two Sierra Mist spots.
“It’s possible we’ll run the Spike and Beyonce commercial. Stay tuned,” said Pepsi-Cola North America spokesman Dave DeCecco.
Hanes, in its first Super Bowl ad since 1985, has teamed basketball superstar Michael Jordan with action hero Jackie Chan in an ad for its Tagless T-shirts.
“We really wanted to have fun,” said Hanes spokeswoman Laura Burrows.
Hanes’ 30-second, second-quarter spot shows Chan whipping himself into numerous contortions trying to remove the irritating tag on a brandless shirt before Jordan comes to the rescue with tagless Hanes.
Anheuser-Busch will belly up to the game with 5 minutes of ad time, sporting spots for Budweiser and Bud Light.
Other companies fielding Super Bowl ads include FedEx, Visa, General Motors, AT&T Wireless, Yahoo!, Gatorade, Sony and Levis Strauss.
Hitting this year on Jan. 26, the Super Bowl is TV’s most-watched annual event.