The Columns

The Other Big Game:

— by on February 1st, 2010

Ever since Apple introduced its Macintosh computer with Ridley Scott’s 1984 television commercial during Super Bowl XVIII, advertisers have focused on Super Sunday.

And while this year is no exception, Washington and Lee University marketing professor Amanda Bower said that viewers may be as surprised by what they don’t see.

• Follow the AdLIbs blog through the game

“You won’t see Pepsi, which has changed its philosophy and is determined not to be as much in-your-face with its advertising,” said Bower, associate professor of business administration. “You won’t see FedEx, which has advertised 19 times since 1989. You won’t see General Motors, which had advertised on 11 of the last 12 Super Bowls. And you may or may not see the Budweiser Clydesdales.”

No Clydesdales?

“Anheuser Busch has five minutes of advertising, but they tested an ad with the Clydesdales and it didn’t fare as well as some others they tested. So they originally announced they were not using it,” she said.

But, Bower noted, there was a backlash, prompting Anheuser Busch to put three of their commercials on Facebook and open it to a vote. A final decision will be made this week, but the Clydesdale commercial was leading.

“Several of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials ever featured the Clydesdales, including the one in which the Clydesdales bowed to New York’s empty skyline after 9-11,” said Bower. “When you consider that Anheuser Busch is now owned by the Belgian company InBev, I think it may be that some people were wondering what happened to their all-American Clydesdales.”

As usual, several companies will use the Super Bowl to introduce new campaigns or launch new products.

“The way we think about Super Bowl advertising today began with that iconic Macintosh 1984 ad,” said Bower. “That was when advertisers saw how you could really control our message by using the Super Bowl when everyone is having this common experience.

“Marketers have changed their opinions from time to time, and some may play an ad that they’ve played before, maybe even at a previous Super Bowl. I think that people are often disappointed and go out to make a bologna sandwich.”

There is little question, said Bower, that advertising on the Super Bowl can be productive, even if the ads themselves don’t score well with viewers who rate them on the basis of entertainment value.

“You don’t have to like an ad for it to work, and an ad doesn’t have to work for you to like it,” Bower said. “For instance, Go Daddy offends some people with its sexually charged approach, but there are people who have responded to those ads and people who are familiar with the company because of the ads. In fact, Go Daddy has increased its market share from 16 percent to 48 percent since it started advertising on the Super Bowl.”

As for what to expect this year, Bower said there will be plenty of beer, including a new approach by Miller High Life to reinforce its blue-collar position by using actual small businesses in ads with local affiliates.

“Another Super Bowl success has been E*TRADE with its talking baby. The company saw a 19 percent increase in its signups after a week last year,” said Bower, noting that E*TRADE will be back on the telecast with a new talking baby.

One of the product launches will be the 2010 Intel Core processor. The company purchased one 30-second spot, valued at between $2.5 and $3 million, for the fourth quarter of the game.

“They want people to understand this is big, and, in fact, it’s so big that we’re advertising on the Super Bowl,” Bower said.

Chrysler’s 60-second spot to re-launch the Dodge Charger could be controversial, Bower said, not because of the content but because the bailed-out auto company will be spending $5 to $6 million.

“Chrysler will argue that they need to advertise because they have to sell cars in order to pay back that bailout money,” Bower said. “That’s a nice retort, but do they have to spend that much on a single ad will be the question.”

For the second year in a row, Bower will be live blogging the ads, along with several members of her advertising class and some alumni who are in the ad business. You can follow their comments during the game by going to http://wluadlibs.wordpress.com.