Advertisers prepare for Super Bowl

Local jeweler plans to keep commercial a secret until it appears before Sunday’s game


How do you hype a Super Bowl television commercial?

Run a commercial.

Willie Nelson holds a can of shaving cream in an H&R Block commercial that will be shown during the Super Bowl this year. In the advertisement, Nelson has to pay for mistakes made by an accountant and is told he should have used H&R Block. AP photoThat’s the thinking of Tim Dahms, the advertising manager for Congress Jewelers Inc., an upscale jeweler founded in Sanibel in 1983. The company started running commercials on Monday to promote its upcoming Super Bowl commercial, which will air locally just before kickoff on Sunday.

“We’re spending a lot of money for our fixed position in the Super Bowl, and we felt this may be an innovative way to maximize our viewership,” Dahms said.

Congress is keeping its Super Bowl commercial under wraps until the big day. The idea is to build suspense and excitement going into the Super Bowl in hopes that more local residents will tune into the 30-second commercial, which doesn’t come cheap.

Local spots in the Super Bowl cost as much as $20,000.

Dahms said his company’s Super Bowl commercial is tied to a special event, which will be announced for the first time Sunday. He said it’s designed solely for the game and won’t be aired again.

“We are kicking off a never-before- seen event in this area,” Dahms said.

“The Super Bowl is a perfect place (to launch the campaign) because you have a lot of people watching all at once.”

Make that an estimated 600,000 people in Southwest Florida.

The Super Bowl has long been seen as advertising’s biggest stage. Historically, more than 80 million viewers tune in during a three-hour period and people look forward to commercial debuts from national companies such as Budweiser, McDonald’s and Pepsi.

Melissa Congress, one of the owners of Congress Jewelers, said the company has advertised during the Super Bowl before.

But this time the company is making a much larger investment.

“This is different,” she said. “The style of the ad is different. It’s a lot more creative and we are doing some teasers leading up to the ad.”

The “teaser” ads are running on Channel 7 and a variety of cable stations, including the History Channel, HGTV, CNN and ESPN. One will run during the pregame show, and the Skins Game that precedes the Super Bowl.

Bob Beville, a director of sales for WZVN, carried locally on Channel 7, described what Congress is doing as “significant” because he hasn’t see anything like it done in Southwest Florida.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said.

Asked if he knew anything about the jeweler’s mysterious Super Bowl commercial, Beville said: “I can’t let the cat out of the bag, even if I wanted to. I haven’t seen the commercial.”

The commercial Congress is running now is simple. It shows a few black screens, offset by white type. It goes like this.

First screen: Something big is coming to Southwest Florida.

Second screen: Something never before seen in this area.

Third screen: What is it?

Fourth screen: Watch our commercial in the Super Bowl to find out.

Fifth screen: 5:54 p.m. Sunday, January 26 (give or take a few minutes).

Sixth screen: Congress Jewelers.

Dahms said it’s hard to predict exactly when the commercial will air since the game is live, and that’s the reason for the “give or take a few minutes” in the ad, which is meant in a tongue-in-cheek way.

Cassandra Reese, an associate professor of journalism at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, said it’s hard to know how Congress’ advertising campaign will go over. She said what’s most important is to reach the right people with the right message, and that doesn’t always happen during a Super Bowl when many are socializing at parties and not sitting down to watch the entire game.

“We never know whether it’s good until after it’s happened,” Reese said of television advertising. “We are dependent on flaky consumers.”

Congress isn’t the only local company making bets on the Super Bowl. A handful of companies have reserved local spots, which have been sold out for weeks, Beville said.

Other companies advertising locally during the Super Bowl are Bill Smith Appliances, Naples Dodge, the Florida Department of Citrus, Acura, Chrysler Plymouth, Southeast Toyota, Fiddler’s Creek, Boater’s Landing, Coors, Naples Orthopedics, Robb & Stuckey, Cronin’s Porch and Patio, Germain Toyota and Bonita Bay.

As of last week, ABC still had a handful of national commercial spots left to sell for the Super Bowl. At noon Friday, 90 percent of the 62 half-minute- long TV commercial slots had been purchased at an average price of between $2.1 and $2.2 million.

While most advertisers are keeping tight-lipped about their plans, here are a few expected highlights of Sunday’s game:

– Levi Strauss will tout a pair of jeans laden with gold, diamonds and rubies appraised at $85,000.

– Hanes will feature Michael Jordan and Jackie Chan.

– H&R Block, which prepares tax returns, will showcase musician Willie Nelson, whose tax troubles are well-known.

Other advertisers include, Philip Morris and Disney. The largest advertiser is expected to be Anheuser-Busch, which has purchased 11 spots.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.