Super Bowl demands advertisers' best plays

30 seconds to impress more than 80 million


Associated Press

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 and $2.2 million each, about 10 percent higher than a year ago.

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

Super Bowl commercials are traditionally among the most coveted and prestigious in the advertising world. The reason: 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 water cooler Monday morning as the game.

Many advertisers are coy about their plans, but here are a few of the expected highlights of the Jan. 26 game:

-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, whose tax troubles are well-known.

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

While Super Bowl ads at times have tested the line of good taste, the National Football League has its standards. The NFL 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.”