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Super Bowl Advertisers Fine-Tune Plays
Robert Lachky, vice president of brand management for beer giant Anheuser-Busch and keeper of the King of Beers' advertising, has one goal Monday morning.
He wants to hear that his advertising is king with viewers when they are called by media outlets asking which ads they remember from the Super Bowl the night before.
And as the biggest advertising spender, Lachky has a better chance than most of getting what he wants.
With nine commercials for both Budweiser and Bud Light, viewers will be exposed to more commercials from Anheuser-Busch than from any other advertiser in the big game.
But with the average 30-second spot price hitting a record $2.25 million, up from $2.1 million last year, the pressure on Lachky and his main ad agency, DDB Chicago, to deliver a winner is greater than ever.
"We think we know the formula pretty well," Lachky said. "It's not your typical sports audience, and it's not a typical NFL game. The more you surprise, the better off you'll be."
Anheuser-Busch has certainly been training for the big game. The beermaker shot more than 100 ads just for Sunday and has been whittling its list to the nine it thinks will resonate the most. Viewers will see them in premier spots, including right after kickoff.
With more than 130 million viewers expected to tune in to the CBS broadcast, Anheuser-Busch's annual blitz on the Super Bowl is a costly gamble. But Lachky continues to believe that the payoff is worth its weight in gold, even if the teams come from markets not deemed desirable by most advertisers.
"It doesn't matter," Lachky said of the matchups. "The Super Bowl is much more than the game, and the event is bigger than the matchups."
As in most Super Bowls, this year's ad breaks will be filled mostly with humor spots. This year Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi-Cola, Frito-Lay and MasterCard are leading efforts to elicit a laugh from the audience.
Whether Anheuser-Busch can top its top spot last year -- the one where football-playing Clydesdales wait for the a zebra referee to review a play -- is anyone's guess.
But the brewer is expected to contend this year, with at least three of its spots predicted to do well in morning-after recall surveys.
In one spot from DDB Chicago, football announcers give a blow-by-blow account of a referee getting chewed out by a coach over a call.
As the ref stares unnerved by the coach's tirade, the announcers ask, "Boy, where do you train to take a beating like that?" The scene then cuts to the same ref, getting chewed out by his wife at the couple's dining room table.
Another spot from Anheuser-Busch agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, features the story of a donkey who strives to be a Budweiser Clydesdale.
Pepsi-Cola, known for its big-budget productions in the past, will make a splash with a promotion to give away 100 million digital songs from Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store. The ad, from BBDO New York, features 16 real-life teenagers who were sued by the recording industry for allegedly illegally downloading music. The spot features Green Day's version of "I Fought the Law."
MasterCard's ongoing "Priceless" campaign pokes fun at itself while featuring "The Simpsons" character Homer Simpson, who complains about the price of everything from a haircut to groceries as he pays with his MasterCard. The payoff at the end shows Homer sitting down at a bar after all his chores when the voiceover chimes in: "Getting your errands done quicker to spend more time with your family? Priceless." When the announcer begins to repeat himself, Homer snarls: "Yeah, yeah. I heard you the first time. Stupid voiceover."
Though the ads will undoubtedly leave most laughing this year, media buyers and advertisers will be analyzing this advertising bowl more closely than in years past. After millions of young male viewers tuned out of broadcast television and into cable, DVDs and video games in the fall, there is concern that even in big events, some groups of viewers may be more apathetic than in the past.
"If there are indications young men are leaving, then there will be plenty of discussions," said John Muszynski, head of television buying at giant media buying firm Starcom MediaVest Group. "What we're seeing is males shifting from broadcast to cable. It depends on what's on the air. If the right content is there, they'll go there."
And as more viewers flock to cable television or go online, advertisers are increasingly putting more emphasis on newer commercials rather than recycling campaigns viewers might be used to.
That puts more pressure on agencies to "crack the code" in getting a spot that is memorable.
"The formula has been tightened and tightened," said Barry Burdiak, one of two creative directors at DDB who developed the referee spot for Budweiser. "You don't want to be so self-aware that it's freaking you out."
Sara Lee consolidates with Starcom: Sara Lee Corp. consolidated its entire U.S. media planning and buying with Chicago-based Starcom U.S.A. The company spends roughly $100 million in advertising annually.
Lottery and DDB split: Citing creative differences, the Illinois Lottery and its agency DDB Chicago have gone separate ways. "The Illinois Lottery and DDB have a difference in opinion regarding the marketing campaign and creative product," said a statement from the Lottery. "The Lottery has accepted their resignation and wishes them continued success."