Costly Super Bowl Ads Make Cheap Hits

By JUSTIN BACHMAN, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK – There were dueling razor blades, funny beer pitches, a young Jimi Hendrix — and lots of references to male anatomy.

Even before the football teams came close to scoring in Sunday’s Super Bowl, some of the high-priced commercials targeting men were racking up points, even if some of the hits were a little cheap.

There was plenty of aiming for a certain area of male anatomy, and not just by the makers of drugs for erectile dysfunction.

In a telecast that featured commercials for two of the three drugs to treat impotence, Bud Light scored early with two amusing ads. Both focused on men suffering similarly difficult experiences.

One spot featured two guys at a hunting camp compare their canines’ talents. One has a dog that fetches a Bud Light from a cooler. “What can your dog do?” asks the pleased owner. “Bud Light,” commands the man wanting a beer, prompting his scroungy pooch to lunge for the pants of the other guy, who squeals and flings his bottle.

In the other ad, comedian Cedric the Entertainer wanders into the wrong room at a spa while waiting for his massage, distracted on his way by a refrigerator loaded with Bud Light. The puzzled attendant gives him the treatment — a bikini wax.

“Is there a breeze in here?” Cedric asks afterward, sitting in a bathrobe.

Sierra Mist soda explored the same territory. And one can only hope the kilt-wearing bagpiper in their ad is wearing a certain piece of football gear as he gets relief from the heat by exposing himself to blasts of frigid air from a subway grate. A boy looking on says, “That’s just wrong, Dad.”

CBS charged $2.3 million this year for each 30-second spot, up from $2.2 million last year. The commercials command such steep prices because the broadcast commands a unique audience: nearly 100 million viewers who don’t channel surf for four-plus hours.

The American Legacy Foundation offered an elaborate anti-smoking spot featuring Shards O’ Glass Freeze Pops, a treat with broken glass frozen inside. “What if all companies sold products like tobacco,” the close-out line asks.

Pharmaceutical giants Bayer AG and GlaxoSmithKline hired former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka to tout their new anti-impotence drug, Levitra, by noting some differences between football and baseball. One is played in all sorts of weather, with a markedly different pace, Ditka notes, taking a swipe at the summer sport.

“Baseball could use Levitra,” Ditka concludes.

The newest entrant in that prescription drug category, Cialis, offers romantic scenes of couples in a commercial that asks: “If a relaxing moment turns into the right moment, will you be ready?”

Apple Computer and PepsiCo used the game to kick off their iTunes music store promotion — and to tweak the recording industry’s legal assault on Internet song-swapping by featuring 16 teens the industry sued last year over their illegal downloading.

Keeping to its musical theme this Super Bowl, Pepsi imagined the day an 11-year-old Jimi Hendrix contemplates an electric guitar in the window of a Seattle shop located near a Pepsi vending machine. Nearby, a Coke machine sits outside a store selling an accordion.

“Whew… that was a close one,” reads the ending graphic, after the soundtrack offers a taste of “Purple Haze” accordion-style.

In one of the program’s quirkier ads, an elderly couple battles over new crispier chips from Frito Lay. Tripping her, the older gentleman then shuffles past and stabs his cane in her back. But reaching the chips, he finds himself thwarted as he turns to see her holding his artificial teeth.

Rival shaving product companies Gillette and Schick-Wilkinson Sword also got into the act.

Schick informed viewers in pedestrian fashion that its new Quattro system with four blades is superior to those with only three. Gillette answered with a flashy collection of black and white images and purple prose about the joys of its own three-blade razor: “It’s like having an angel by your side.”