Commercial spending getting out of hand

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

Well, a sad day has occurred across the United States, and a naked sheep, a magic refrigerator and a wireless telephone with a crime deterrent feature ushered in the period of mourning.

That&8217;s right, football season has ended. I know, I know, the NFL Pro Bowl has yet to be played. In my book, that doesn&8217;t count. It&8217;s less interesting than an exhibition hockey game in my book.

But the real question that comes at the end of the football season isn&8217;t, &8220;Did your team win in the Super Bowl?&8221; or &8220;How do they look for next season?&8221;

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The real questions are: &8220;What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial?&8221; and &8220;Are they money well spent?&8221;

Among the leading contenders were two spots from Anheuser-Busch. One featured an apparent football game preparing to get rolling. The players were the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. Suddenly, bare-skinned (read, no wool) sheep runs onto the feel frolicking to and fro. The camera cuts to two human cowboy spectators. One of them says, &8220;Streaker.&8221;

Another features a genius young man who installs a &8220;revolving wall&8221; to hide the beer-filled refrigerator from guests. Little does he know that when the refrigerator rotates into the wall, his neighbors think the &8220;magic fridge&8221; pours forth liquid manna.

Only once a year is so much hype and so many dollars spent in an attempt to capture the imagination of so many. Half the time it may be difficult to even remember the product being advertised.

Getting the message across in Super Bowl TV advertising isn&8217;t necessarily the No. 1 goal. The goal is getting attention, any way possible.

The amount of money involved is staggering. Reportedly, the average price of a 30-second TV spot was $2.4 million. For you math challenged, that&8217;s $80,000 per second!

Good grief, that&8217;s a ton of cash.

And it could be all for naught if all the TV viewers suddenly felt &8220;nature&8217;s call&8221; at the same exact time. Sure, the chances are slim, but at $80,000 a second, I&8217;d want a sure thing.

This year, the Super Bowl viewership increased slightly, which was a bit of surprise to analysts who had predicted a lackluster year.

Approximately 91 million people reportedly watched the Super Bowl. From an advertiser&8217;s perspective, that&8217;s a bunch of eyeballs. But what gets lost in the hype is that newspapers (and yes, I&8217;m a bit partial here) deliver more than that many readers each week.

Believe it or not, more than 100 million daily and weekly newspapers are distributed each week in the United States. And, if you consider that more than one person often reads a single newspaper, well, you get the picture and I need to get back on the subject &8212; the insanity of spending so much just to make headlines.

As I watched the ads flash by on Sunday, chuckling at a few and scratching my head at others, my mood changed.

Somehow, and I realize I may sound like a bleeding heart liberal when I say this, I was a little disgusted this year with the amount of money being spent.

Sure it&8217;s a free country and a company can spend money however it wants, but I couldn&8217;t help but think as I chuckled at some of the million-dollar marketing: what if all that money could help rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Somewhere in Waveland, Bay St. Louis or St. Bernard Parish, I suspect folks may have enjoyed a chuckle, too. But what happened on Monday?

Their lives returned to the fractured state of what it once was. The nation moved on with a few funny memories about a specific beer or a brand of cell phone and the Gulf Coast continued to pick up the pieces.

Somehow I&8217;d trade in all the chuckles for a little peace of mind. Wouldn&8217;t it have been great if one of the advertisers simply said, &8220;We&8217;re not going to try and sell you anything, just don&8217;t forget the Gulf Coast?&8221;

Kevin Cooper

is associate publisher of The Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or by e-mail at