Bulk Of Super Bowl Ads Sold As Big Game Approaches



Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) – With the Super Bowl just over a week away, TV host ABC still has a handful of commercial spots to sell for what has become the ad industry’s showcase.

More than 90 percent of the 61, half-minute long TV commercial slots had been purchased as of the end of this week – at an average selling price of between $2.1 million and $2.2 million each, about 10 percent higher than a year ago.

Although it may seem late, analysts say its not unusual for networks to struggle a bit once the prime first-half and halftime slots are gone.

“At this point in time, just about every network usually has some ads left,” said Carolyn Bivens, president and chief operating officer of Initiative Media. “Most of those are going to be late in the fourth quarter. Those are always the ones that go last. But any of the ad positions in the first or second quarter and following halftime are long gone.”

Super Bowl commercials are traditionally among the most coveted and prestigious in the advertising world. The game is the most widely watched event on TV with an audience that averages more than 80 million people. It’s an opportunity for advertisers to show off their skills, and reach a wide, diverse group of people – some of whom tune in just for the ads.

“If you want to reach a mass audience, there are fewer and fewer ways to do that,” said Paul Ostasiewski, an assistant professor of marketing and management at Wheeling Jesuit University. “With cable TV and all the other choices out there, the viewing audience is much more fragmented and it’s rare to get such a big audience.”

With so much money and such a large audience at stake, Super Bowl advertisers tend to pull out all the stops, spending millions on entertaining, original ads they hope will be memorable. In some cases, the ads represent elaborate finales to months-long ad campaigns. Other companies use the forum to unveil new products or new campaigns.

As a result, the ads are just as likely to be discussed around the watercooler Monday morning as the game.

“You see higher-quality, relatively creative commercials that are longer, more together. Several are really good, whereas the rest of the year you might see one or two that are that good,” said Allyson Algeo, 31, of Portland, Maine, who watches more for the ads than the game.

Many advertisers are coy about their plans, but here are a few of the expected highlights:

– Levi Strauss will tout a gold, diamond and ruby-laden pair of jeans, appraised at $85,000.

– Hanes will feature Michael Jordan and Jackie Chan.

– Tax preparation firm H&R Block will showcase musician Willie Nelson, who has had tax troubles.

Other advertisers include HotJobs.com, Philip Morris and Disney. Anheuser Busch has bought 11 spots, making it the biggest advertiser in this year’s game.

While Super Bowl ads have sometimes tested the line of good taste, the NFL has its standards. It rejected a commercial from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, citing a “long-standing policy that prohibits the acceptance of any message that makes reference to or in mention of sports betting.”

Ostasiewski said most of the advertisers in this year’s game are established companies because of the cost and limitations of a Super Bowl ad. Research, he said, shows that a consumer typically has to see an ad at least seven times to even remember it. So companies that lack name-recognition may be less likely to see a payoff.

“Dot-coms were very heavy Super Bowl buyers a few years ago, and now many of them are gone,” he said. “The game helped them reach a lot of people, but in the end it wasn’t enough.”