CBS set for 140M Super score

CBS set for 140M Super score



The Super Bowl means new ads for H&R Block… and America Online.

Badly burned by a lousy TV season, advertisers are pouring huge sums of cash into one of the last sure things left on the air: the Super Bowl.

In recent days, CBS has been scoring last-minute sales and has sold all but five or six 30-second spots, sources said. Advertisers are spending record sums – $2.3 million per 30 second ad – a 7% increase over last year. Even though the prices could drop as the Feb. 1 kickoff approaches, Viacom-owned CBS is set to take in about $140 million for the game.

With its massive audience of nearly 90 million and the tremendous buzz advertisers get from being part of a cultural phenomenon, the Super Bowl has always been the hottest buy on TV.

But for blue-chip names like AOL, Pepsi, H&R Block, Procter & Gamble and Anheuser-Busch, the game’s appeal is stronger than ever after the fizzling of this year’s TV season that saw a massive flight of young male viewers.

“It makes the Super Bowl all the more valuable,” said Shira Goodman, marketing chief for office chain Staples, which makes its Super Bowl debut this year. “I have confidence that people will watch the commercials – and look forward to watching them.”

But with Super Bowl prices through the roof, the pressure has never been greater to dazzle audiences with ads that will keep fans talking after the game’s over.

“The execution has to be entertaining,” said Rich Rizzardi, of H&R Block’s agency, Campbell Mithun.

For the second year in a row, the tax preparer will look to music star Willie Nelson. H&R Block, which will unveil its Super Bowl spot today, once again presents Nelson as the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to go to for tax advice.

This time around, the country music singer – who in real life has had some serious battles with the taxman – is featured in a faux infomercial hawking a talking Willie Nelson doll. Of course, the mini Willie Nelson gives lousy tax tips.

Staples also is looking to amuse. Its commercial, set in an office, features a power-crazed supplies boss named Randy who won’t hand over the goods to his co-workers unless he’s paid off. A tough guy played by actor Joe Viterelli – Robert De Niro’s bodyguard in “Analyze This” – heads to Staples and together they defeat Randy.

Goodman claimed the Super Bowl’s high price is worth it because Staples’ busy customers – small business owners and office managers – will likely be tuning in. The retailer is so convinced, it’s betting 5% of its total ad budget on one 30-second Super Bowl spot.

But no advertiser has more riding on the game than Time Warner-owned AOL, which is investing an estimated $10 million on the event.

AOL’s ready to take a big risk as it attempts to stop customers from dumping its service.

“Go big or go home,” AOL marketing chief Len Short said of his big Super Bowl bet. “We’ve had a rough road and we won’t get many chances to get people to give AOL a second look.”

AOL’s profile will no doubt be among the highest at the game. That’s because the online giant intends to be everywhere on Super Bowl Sunday with a multi-pronged campaign.

At the center are three spots featuring the real life motorcycle-making, bickering Teutul family from the fast rising “American Chopper” reality series on the Discovery Channel. The Teutul spots will promote AOL’s TopSpeed technology that speeds up regular dial up services.

AOL also will sponsor the Super Bowl halftime show. And as it did last year, the online giant will latch on to the Super Bowl commercial frenzy by showcasing all of the spots on its service and allowing fans to vote on them.

Originally published on January 19, 2004