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Something Doesn't Ad Up.
January 23, 2004

by Bill Hogan



The Super Bowl XXXVIII (that's 38) match up between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers is still more than a week away. Sportsfans everywhere are eagerly awaiting the start of the NFL's season-ending spectacle.

Even without the lure of big-time teams and big-name players, the level of interest remains high. Men, women and children are anxiously anticipating the sound of the referee's whistle signaling the start of something monumental: the first TV timeout of the Super Bowl.


The first commercial break marks the kickoff of Ad-Bowl 2004. The Panthers and Patriots have two weeks to prepare for the big game. Advertising agencies have been working toward this moment since the Buccaneers left San Diego with the Lombardi Trophy last January.

If Tom Brady throws a first quarter interception it might not cost the Patriots the game, but for the companies that are coughing up $2.25 million for 30-seconds of air time on the highest rated television program of the year, there is no margin for error.

Television viewers will be more critical of a poorly produced Pepsi commercial than they will be of Bill Belichick's play calling or John Fox's defensive strategy. The losing team can rally around the old adage "wait 'till next year." If FedEx drops the ball, they could see an immediate loss of market share to UPS or, worse yet, the Post Office.

Last year, when Terry Tate Office Linebacker ran down a hallway and pummeled a co-worker for submitting an erroneous expense report, Reebok set the Super Bowl ad bar at an all-time high. Frito-Lay and Anheuser-Busch have their work cut out for themselves.

The Carolina Panthers and corporate giant Procter & Gamble are both making their first Super Bowl appearance. P&G will be promoting its Charmin toilet tissue with the tag line "the softest and strongest Charmin for your end zone." Terry Tate should blitz their next board meeting. I hope the Panthers fare better on the field.

A commercial you won't see during the Super Bowl is one produced by the activist group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Their ad promoting vegetarianism was rejected by CBS because the station doesn't accept advocacy ads.

PETA's perturbed. They claim that CBS is being selective and hypocritical because past Super Bowl ads featured anti-tobacco and anti-drug messages. Feel free to insert your own sarcastic remark here.

The rejected PETA commercial informs us that eating meat can lead to impotence. The 30-second spot opens with two females pillow fighting and quickly deteriorates from there. CBS could have avoided the whole advocacy issue by declining the ad based on bad taste.

There is a truly ironic twist to all this. CBS will not permit PETA to warn men about the performance-reducing affect caused by the consumption of meat; but the station will air Super Bowl ads produced by three pharmaceutical companies promoting a cure for Erectile Dysfunction.

Go ahead, men, toss another package of polish sausage on the grill, crack open that extra large bucket of wings and order up the meat-lovers supreme from Dominos. With Levitra, Cialis and Viagra all competing for your business, this is no time to become a vegetarian.

And at four-and-a-half million dollars a minute, this is no time for America Online, Visa or H&R Block to figure out that their Super Bowl ad campaign is chopped liver. America will be watching, critiquing and voting on the best and worst of the day.

It used to be that people would tire of the endless football hype that led up to a usually unspectacular game. Now, a large portion of the pre-game publicity is reserved for the competition that takes place when play is stopped.

There are online sites where you can download Super Bowl ad previews, others where you can rate the ads as they air. CBS has an upcoming hour-long special dedicated to the very best Super Bowl commercials. Mean Joe Green is better remembered for his classic Coke commercial than he is for his Hall of Fame career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Panthers-Patriots game should be competitive, and may even turn out to be spectacular. Perhaps a 2-minute drive that ends with a last-second, game-winning touchdown; or the first-ever sudden death overtime game – now that would be something.

But I have a feeling that Jake Delhomme still will not be as well-known or as talked about as this year's Terry Tate Office Linebacker.


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