Tradition Reigns

NEW YORK Although last year’s Super Bowl seemed to herald a new level of consumer involvement—notably, user-gen ads from Chevrolet, Doritos and the NFL—this year’s broadcast on Fox is looking a bit more tried-and-true. Yes, Web and mobile extensions will still play a role in many advertisers’ plans. There is less user-gen work in sight for the $2.7 million ad buys. Instead, elements of Super Bowls past, from animals to celebrities, will dominate the big game.

Pepsi will bring out Justin Timberlake for its “Pepsi Stuff” promotion from BBDO. And likely to reprise his starring role for Anheuser-Busch is comedian Carlos Mencia, once again using Bud Light to teach immigrants how to speak English in a spot being tested from Latin Works.

A comic celebrity on a roll, Will Ferrell, will star in a New Line co-promotion with A-B’s Bud Light for his upcoming comedy, Semi-Pro. In the spot, Ferrell extols the virtues of Bud Light while in character as Jackie Moon, the owner, player and coach of the hapless Flint Michigan Tropics.

The co-promotion is one of roughly 20 spots A-B is testing. The beer maker has bought seven spots throughout all four quarters for a total of four minutes—the most of any advertiser this year—six of which are for Bud Light. The seventh is a 60-second ad for Budweiser featuring the Clydesdales. (Last year, A-B had a total of five minutes in the game.)

Agencies working on spots for the company include Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (which is also working on two ads for Hyundai), Latin Works and DDB. The agency has by far the most spots in testing for the beer giant, with 10 to 12 under consideration.

Bob Lachky, A-B’s evp and CCO, says, “40 percent of all U.S. beer drinkers watch the game. When you get a 100 million sets of eyeballs built around a party setting … it makes perfect sense to advertise there.”

Other celebs showing up are diet guru Richard Simmons and heavy metal rocker Alice Cooper for Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, in ads from The Richards Group. Covering all its bases, Bridgestone and The Richards Group, which are mum on details, will also have a spot featuring a large number of animals. (See sidebar.)

Careerbuilder.com, working with Wieden + Kennedy, reportedly has four spots being tested, all featuring animated creatures telling people to follow their dreams. (Careerbuilder.com parted ways with Cramer-Krasselt after last year’s three Super Bowl spots, “Office Jungle,” “Torture” and “Office Jungle Fight,” depicting office life as a jungle ecosystem, did poorly in polls.)

Another Super Bowl tradition is the spot that bombs. Last year, that role was filled by Salesgenie.com—a lead-generation service that’s part of database company infoUSA—and its awful 30-second ad, “Pearce.” Vin Gupta, founder and CEO of infoUSA, wrote the script, played ostensibly not for laughs, which had a salesman being lauded for his success while his peers struggled. Sample dialog, spoken in a breathy, obsequious tone by a young man: “Dude, how do you do it? You’ve sold $3 million this quarter already.” The spot, created in-house, was ranked at the bottom of USA Today’s annual Super Bowl Ad Meter.

Salesgenie.com is not only undaunted, it’s embracing its loser status. Claiming that last year’s effort drove 25,000 visitors to its Web site, it upped the ante this year by buying two 30-second in-game and one 30-second pre-game spots—and is actively aiming to have the worst ads of the game, according to a company rep. Gupta is penning the spots, all three of which will be animated in a children’s cartoon-like manner by Mint, San Francisco.

GoDaddy.com, another low-ranked company on last year’s USA Today meter, is also returning, and continuing a tradition of its own: Presenting racy, in-house-produced ads to the network and then acting outraged when they’re rejected. As of press time, the Web site registration company had already been given the thumbs down once—for trying to get the word “beaver” onto the air.

Bob Parsons, CEO and founder of GoDaddy, insists this is not a publicity ploy, despite the fact it’s the fourth year in a row the company has gone through the same drill. “The very nature of our advertising generates the situation we find ourselves in,” he says. “We’re interested in our ad being as edgy as the network will accept.”

Several companies, including Super Bowl first timers Planters, Cars.com and Dell, are using the game to promulgate a shift in strategy or to launch a campaign.

Planters, with its 30-second ad from DraftFCB, is spotlighting its recent shift from an emphasis on salty nuts to, more broadly, salty snacks. Cars.com is launching a campaign with two 30-second spots from DDB, and Dell is using its 30-second ad from Mother to announce a partnership with (Product)Red, a program that donates a portion of sales to fight AIDS in Africa.

Movie studios will use the game to aggressively push a lineup of big-budget films. Last year there were four trailers, two from Disney and one each from Lionsgate and the Weinstein Company. This year, Sony and Paramount are confirmed, and New Line, Disney, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros. and Paramount may show trailers as well.

One reason for the likely film push: This year’s crop of summer flicks could use the buzz, while last summer’s pictures were blockbuster franchises the studios thought could sell themselves: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Shrek the Third and Spider-Man 3. Also, the writers’ strike has caused “TV viewing to go down a little bit and the movies could use a big tent pole,” says one major studio marketing executive who declined to be named.

Last year, Garmin, the GPS maker, went to the movies with its Godzilla-like spoof from Fallon. This year, it changed agencies for the big game. (A company rep declined to identify the shop.) And BBDO is also doing an undisclosed number of spots for FedEx.

“The big win is to say something relevant and compelling about the brand and connect with people,” says Bill Bruce, cd at BBDO. “At the same time you want an unfair amount of the buzz and PR value.”

But with more marketers following the same formula, it’s increasingly difficult to stand out from the pack.

“The Super Bowl is still a great place to be, but it’s like the Rockettes,” says Jeff Goodby, co-founder of Goodby. “It’s a great thing to go to [when you’re] in New York, but there are fewer and fewer people who are going to do it.”