If the 30-second TV ad spot is dead or dying, somebody forgot to tell Super Bowl advertisers.
The beer and burger companies that dominate advertising's biggest event are paying more than ever for Sunday's game -- about $2.5-million (U.S.) for a 30-second spot on the U.S. broadcast, up from $2.4-million last year.
In Canada, the rate for a national buy on the CanWest Global simulcast is about $95,000 (Canadian), up from about $92,000 last year.
But media buyers say growing demand for the big game is, in itself, symptomatic of TV's challenges -- in an age of personal digital video recorders and a fragmented audience, it's becoming increasingly difficult to reach a large, live audience.
As a result, live destination events such as award shows and sports playoffs become more vital.
"Are these important in an age of fragmentation? I believe they are more important than they used to be for the very reason that you are getting mass reach that is engaged," said Sunni Boot, president of Zenith Optimedia Canada.
In both Canada and the United States, advertisers pay more to reach a Super Bowl viewer than it costs to reach consumers on regular network programming. "Part of it is emotional . . ." said Doug Checkeris, president of Media Company, another ad buyer. "You pay a very significant premium for it."
Advertisers are willing to pay a premium for live destination events not just because of the large audience numbers but because viewers tend to be more engaged. They watch in groups and they're having a good time. And with the Super Bowl, there's the added benefit that viewers and the media watch and talk about new ads, almost as much as the game itself.
In Canada, some viewers complain that they don't get to see the high-profile ads that are aired in the United States. For example, a new Burger King ad, which will make its debut during the Super Bowl and is generating major buzz south of the border, won't be part of the Canadian broadcast. That spot features swimsuit model Brooke Burke and 92 singing and dancing "Whopperettes" dressed as burgers, lettuce and tomatoes.
While Pepsi-Cola Canada Ltd. used last year's Super Bowl broadcast to launch new made-in-Canada ads, this year it has decided to air the same spot that is running in the U.S. broadcast. The 60-second spot features hip-hop artist P. Diddy and actor Jay Mohr.
Other advertisers will launch new Canadian creative during Sunday's broadcast. Labatt Brewing Co. Ltd. will air new ads for Alexander Keith's and for Budweiser, which it brews and markets under licence from Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.
Labatt said it will air five or six Budweiser ads on the Canadian broadcast. In one, a man dresses up as a chair at a costume party in order to get women to sit on his lap. The chair ad is part of a new campaign from Toronto-based Downtown Partners.
Downtown Partners is also waiting to hear whether another Budweiser ad it developed will run in the U.S. broadcast. The agency was behind ads that ran on the U.S. broadcast in 2003 and 2004.
Rob McCarthy, director of Budweiser marketing at Labatt, said the brewery is using a wider array of media to reach consumers, although television retains a central role in its marketing.
"Television and the traditional 30-second spot remains a critical piece of our total communications mix," Mr. McCarthy said.
But Budweiser has also run other Super Bowl promotions, including a contest to send football fans to Windsor, Ont., across the river from Sunday's game in Detroit. Budweiser has also booked one-quarter of the billboard space in Windsor, and is running a PR campaign around the fact that football fans are stealing its billboards.
Best of the Bowl
These are the three most famous Super Bowl ads ever to air on the U.S. broadcast, according to superbowl-ads.com.
Apple | 1984
The 45-second spot, which ran during the half time of the 1984 Super Bowl is considered the greatest TV commercial of all time. Directed by Blade Runner director Ridley Scott, the spot compares IBM to Big Brother, and promises that Apple's new Macintosh computer will ensure that "1984 won't be like 1984."
Coca-Cola | MEAN JOE GREEN
Coke is left off some lists of top Super Bowl ads because -- though it aired during the 1979 Super Bowl -- it debuted months earlier. In the spot, a young boy offers his idol a Coke and the football player returns the favour with his game jersey.
McDonald's | SHOWDOWN
This 1993 spot features Larry Bird and Michael Jordon competing for a Big Mac. Each shot is more improbable than the one before, concluding with the two of them sitting on top of Chicago's John Hancock building and Mr. Jordan sinking one "off the expressway, over the river, off the billboard, through the window, off the wall, nothin' but net."
The simulcast switch
Canadian football fans have long complained that they don't get to see the expensive ads that run during the U.S. Super Bowl broadcast. As Keith McArthur explains, this year at least one company is running the same ad on both sides of the border.
Canadian market only
Budweiser traditionally airs different ads in the U.S. and Canadian broadcasts. In Canada this year, it is launching a campaign with a spot that features a man dressed up like a chair to get women to sit on his lap.
U.S. market only
Many people in the U.S. ad industry say a new Burger King ad - featuring swimsuit model Brooke Burke and "Whopperettes" dressed up as buns, lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup and mustard - could be the big hit of the year.
Pepsi used last year's broadcast to launch new made-in-Canada ads, but this year it is airing one of the new spots that will also debut in the U.S. broadcast featuring hip hop artist Diddy (Sean Combs) and actor Jay Mohr.