Super Bowl Ads: Still a High-Stakes Game

by Chris Arnold

Coaches have been fine tuning their strategies for Sunday’s Super Bowl. Advertisers have a lot at stake as well. With the biggest TV audience of the year, companies will do whatever they can to get your attention.

In the race to win consumer awareness, though, some advertisements can go too far. is a company that offers a variety of Web services, including the registration of Web site names.’s ad is full of sexual jokes. Bob Parsons, the companies CEO, says that’s why CBS rejected it.

“They didn’t like the double entendres,” Parsons said. “And they didn’t like the word ‘pervert.'” received a lot of attention for a previous ad that got pulled halfway through the Super Bowl. The ad, featuring an actress who showed a lot of cleavage, aired once. But it was pulled from its second Super Bowl slot.

Some industry watchers suspect that companies such as now intentionally submit ads that will get rejected just so they can get media attention for having an ad rejected or “banned” from the Super Bowl.

But even for advertisers not looking to test the boundaries of good taste, many companies produce a stable of ads and then pick just the one or two best to actually air during the Super Bowl.

In part, that’s because they’re paying more than $2.5 million for 30 seconds. Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, says there’s a reason companies are willing to pay that much money to run an ad.

“When you buy an ad at the Super Bowl, you are really buying the attention of the nation,” Calkins said.

Calkins analyzes Super Bowl ads with his marketing students. And he says the Super Bowl is a chance to see the advertising industry at its creative best, and to see some of the best fail.

“The most interesting part in all this is how wide the range is. Some people do really, really good advertising on the Super Bowl,” Calkins said. “Other companies show up and they just miss. I think it speaks to the fact that this is very tough to do.”

With all the interest in Super Bowl ads, some University’s rank the ads. The University of South Carolina teaches a whole course just on Super Bowl ads. And Calkins’ students at Kellogg rate the ads after the game, too. It has turned into a game after the game.

If you miss the ads on the way to the fridge or the bathroom during the game, you can still see them later at several Websites. Some however, make you watch a new ad, before you can see an old Super Bowl ad.