For Love of the Game

}Lest we forget, there are actually football games being played in between the TV commercials this month.

The folks at BBDO payed plenty of mind to the Giants-Vikings game a week ago, if only to follow a wager between two of their presidents—Bill Katz in New York and Bob Thacker in Minneapolis. With the Giants spanking the Vikes 41-0, Thacker was the one to take the fall, and he arrived at the agency’s North American board meeting in Chicago last week done up in a Giants jersey.

“It was totally a day of embarrassment,” he says. “I was sufficiently drubbed.”

And humble, too. He gave Katz 20 pounds of Hormel ham as a peace offering and ate happily from a cake shaped like a crow. “I figured if I had to eat some crow, it might as well taste good,” he says, nary a hint of bitterness in his voice.

Since BBDO doesn’t have a Baltimore or D.C. office, no Super Bowl shenanigans are in the works. (Had Oakland advanced, BBDO West’s Tom Hollerbach would have had a shot. Of course, Thacker’s fate may have scared him off.)

Leading up to the big game in Tampa, we had hoped for an epic ad battle between the Giants and Ravens. But it seems only one team came to play.

“We have a job to do,” says Robert Leffler of The Leffler Agency in Baltimore, doing his best Brian Billick impression. “Everything is strategic. It’s very businesslike.” By which he means, plaster the Tampa area with Ravens ads first, and ask questions later.

A dozen billboards like the one above are going up this week—at the airport, on the road to the team’s hotel and at its practice facility. Most impressively, the six-story Tampa Bay One Complex on I-275 has been colored Ravens purple, with the team name in white.

“It’s all about making the market more Raven-friendly and getting more of a presence,” says Leffler. “It is as much for the team as for the fans.”

It helps, of course, that Leffler has an office in Tampa (which handles the local NFL team, the Buccaneers); the connections with the local media have come in handy. One plan in the works last week was to put Ravens posters in a local paper. “When the fans are in their hotel and open it up,” says Leffler, “boom, there’s a player!”

Best of all, the shop may even manage to get Ravens cheerleaders on the morning drive shows.

Leffler was wary at first about revealing all of his plans. “I don’t want to give the Giants any ideas,” he explains. But he needn’t worry. Asked if New York’s in-house ad team is planning something special, vp of marketing Rusty Hawley responds simply, “Nope.” What, nothing at all? “Sorry,” he says.

Hmm. Let’s hope the Giants’ players have more to offer.