Super Bowl ads are risky plays, panel rules

Anheuser-Busch rushing in

NEW YORK -- Advertisers considering a Super Bowl commercial may want to think twice before shelling out $85,000 for each second of television broadcast time.

A panel of advertising experts broadly agreed Wednesday that running a 30-second commercial during the biggest single porting event of the year has become too costly for most marketers.

"It's a much, much bigger risk than it is reward payout," Julie Roehm, the former communications chief at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said at a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York.

To make the multimillion dollar commercials worthwhile, marketers need to look to tie-in advertisements, such as using the same character or theme on an Internet campaign.

"It's not worth it if you just look at the numbers," said Jon Bond, co-chairman of advertising at agency Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners. "You've got to have something I'll call the 'X factor.' "

He pointed to ads for products, such as beer and pizza, that are consumed during the game and may see an immediate sales boost.

"You never have more guys sitting around on a couch than during the Super Bowl," he added.

This year, Super Bowl XLI airs on Feb. 4 on CBS and is expected to attract some 90 million viewers. But costs rise every year and this time around, marketers have paid up to $2.6 million for a 30-second spot.

Joann Ross, president of network sales for CBS, said more than 25 marketers have signed up for TV spots and talks are ongoing for more commercial time during the game, which pits the Indianapolis Colts against the Chicago Bears.

"The Super Bowl is the one event where people do (pay more attention) to the commercials," she said. "The recall of the commercials is greater than spots that don't run in the Super Bowl."

Ryan Schinman, CEO of Platinum-Rye Entertainment agreed.

"I look at the Super Bowl as a big, almost, premiere," Schinman said. "The Super Bowl, like the Academy Awards, is something special."

The panelists maintained one of the chief problems with Super Bowl commercials was that it was difficult to judge whether or not they had an impact consumer behavior.

"The biggest issue is not for us to sit here and debate whether it's worth it or not," said Dmitry Shapiro, CEO of Veoh Networks. "The biggest problem is nobody knows."

Roehm agreed it was very difficult to judge whether the millions that marketers spend on a commercial actually leads to brand recognition or sales.

"You really can't correlate for sure," she said. "You gamble everything. That's a big bet for a 30-second spot."

Anheuser-Busch ready to kick off ads

NEW YORK -- Anheuser-Busch returns to the Super Bowl this year with nine commercials, featuring humor, horses and Jay-Z, in what the company's top ad executive called an essential part of its business strategy.

Even as critics say the price of Super Bowl advertisements has risen too far -- they can cost up to $85,000 a second -- Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. is maintaining its spot as the top advertiser in the biggest TV event of the year.

"It is absolutely essential for us to kick off our selling season with Super Bowl," said Bob Lachky, Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc.'s executive vp of global industry development, who oversees advertising.

"It's always the guys who can't get their work on the Super Bowl who say it's not worth it," he added.

Anheuser-Busch, the largest U.S. brewer, controls about half the U.S. beer market, but has been fighting for market share against imports, wine and spirits.

Because the Super Bowl is a live event with an audience of about 90 million, many of whom watch at parties where beer is served, the game is a centerpiece of the company's marketing.

This year, Anheuser-Busch began cobbling together a list of 75 to 100 ideas for Super Bowl commercials in September, then turned about of 30 those pitches into actual commercials. The ads that do not make the cut are run later in the year.

For Super Bowl XLI, which airs on CBS on Feb. 4, the company bought 10 30-second spots. It will run nine ads, combining two of its 30-second spots into one 60-second spot.

While marketers have paid up to $2.6 million for a 30-second spot this year, Lachky said Anheuser-Busch bought its ads at a smaller price. He declined to disclose the amount.

"We pay for less than what the going rate is," he said. "We get a better rate because we bundle with Super Bowl purchase with other programming."

One gauge of how much it spends comes from a recent study that showed Anheuser-Busch has bought $250 million of ad time in Super Bowl over the last two decades, far more than any other marketer.

Lachky, who is serving as the company's chief creative officer, contends the best ads for the event involve humor.

"But you've got to be careful, because we've have so many ads over the year that have hit the emotion card, that have played so incredibly well for Budweiser," he said.

Lately, the emotional commercials for Budweiser have featured its famous Clydesdale horses, including a spot that commemorated September 11, 2001 and ran only during the Super Bowl of 2002.

This year, the Clydesdales will be back in one Budweiser commercial, while other lighter, less emotional spots will show astronauts toasting in a space station and crabs stealing a cooler of beer from sunbathers.

Yet another Budweiser commercial is an action packed spot called "Apocalypse" that stars Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., seen racing through a desert wasteland trying to outrun a band of futuristic bandits.

Anheuser-Busch, which works chiefly with ad agency DDB Worldwide, is also keeping with tradition by running humorous spots for its Bud Light brand.

In one, a couple seen is driving down a dark road, studying a map, when they come across a hitchhiker.

"Should we pick him up?" the man asks. "He has Bud Light."

"He has an ax," the woman points out.

"But he has Bud Light," he says.

"And an ax," she says.

"Mmmm, I'm sure there's a reason for it," he says.

Lachky said these commercials and others -- including one for Budweiser Select featuring Jay-Z -- will be the backbone of the company's marketing for all of 2007.

While the ads chosen to run during the game will be replayed, those that failed to make the cut can be used in other big events like the Daytona 500 or the Academy Awards.