Opinion Columns & Blogs

Rick Kushman: Good, bad about the Super Bowl

There is good news and bad news about being a Super Bowl advertiser.

The good part: People actually watch your ad.

And the bad? People watch the ad.

If you think there's pressure on the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Arizona Cardinals in Sunday's Super Bowl, well, actually there is. But there's pressure on the advertisers, too.

They pay $3 million for 30 seconds (ads on Puppy Bowl V cost considerably less; more on that later) and they face demanding viewer expectations.

Super Bowl XLIII officially starts at 3:18 p.m. on NBC but first it has to get through all the schmaltzy stuff: songs, flyover, coin toss, ritual sacrifice of a referee so expect it closer to 3:30 p.m.

And right after the kickoff, we get the first ad.

Is there any other time when a room of people some of them tipsy already (I'm not condoning it, just being a realist) will stop and hush to watch a TV commercial? TV ads are for using the restroom, unless you just TiVo them into the abyss.

But on Super Bowl Sunday, people watch closely, like they're feature films or O.J.'s first trial. So they'd better be good, and they'd better be funny.

Or at least solid.

What you really, really don't want is to be lame, because the entire country will make fun of your company for weeks.

A few regular advertisers, like General Motors and FedEx, are not buying in for the game this year because of the economy, though GM is sponsoring some postgame activities.

NBC is said to have had some trouble selling all its ad time, but the $3 million-for-30-seconds is a record, up from 2008's $2.7 million, so don't cry for NBC.

(When you watch its prime time programming, that's a different story.)

Nonetheless, expect the usual abundance of beer, car and movie ads, led by Anheuser-Busch, which has bought the most commercial time for the past eight Super Bowls.

This year, you know the entire country is holding its communal breath to see if Hank the Clydesdale is still on the team.

By most accounts, the TV ads are worth the cost.

According to a report from the Nielsen Co., 2008 Super Bowl advertisers saw their Web traffic increase an average of 24 percent the day after the game, and general brand opinion of the advertisers went up 16 percent.

This year's halftime act is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and here's a coincidence: they have a new album out.

Nielsen also said, I kid you not, that people who call themselves avid NFL fans outspend the average American on skin care by 74 percent.

Speaking of irrelevant, NBC's pregame shows start at 9 a.m.

Somewhere in that vast stretch, Matt Lauer will interview President Barack Obama.

Last year's Super Bowl drew a record 97.5 million viewers, and about two-thirds of the TVs in use in America were tuned to the game. As for the other one-third? A couple million were on Animal Planet's adorable and fuzzy bit of counter programming, the Puppy Bowl.

Rick Kushman is television columnist for The Sacramento Bee.