Commentary > Bid and Ask
The Stupid Bowl
The game was great. But the ads? Just abysmal.
February 2, 2004: 8:54 AM EST
By Justin Lahart, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Many years, the only reason to keep watching the Super Bowl past the third quarter has been to catch the ads.

This year the game went right down to the wire. And the ads? Sheesh, what a crop of losers.

A donkey that wants to be a Clydesdale. A chopper souped up with, for some reason, an Internet connection. A monkey-on-the-back ad that didn't even recognize what a monkey on the back means. (Hey, maybe next year they'll go with a dead albatross!)

This is the year, they say, that advertising is going to come back big time. Yet for some reason, CBS was only able to up the cost of Super Bowl spots slightly, and for some reason, one gets the sense, nobody seems to have pulled out the stops on production. Really, who would have expected a public service spot (shards of glass) to be the Super Bowl's most creative ad?

You would expect more. The economy grew like gangbusters in the third and fourth quarters and profit growth has been surging. The cash, you'd think, is there to spend. And yet it doesn't seem like it's getting spent.

Not that reticence is anything new. One odd aspect of this economic recovery has been that ad spending has lagged economic growth by so much -- more, according to Credit Suisse's strategy group, than at any time in the past 50 years. And while there have been signs of life in ad-land recently, there's been no real snapback.

Ain't it reminiscent of what's going on with jobs, where economists keep on expecting to see companies to throw the switch and start hiring, and keep on getting disappointed.

Bid and Ask
Written by: Justin Lahart

There's a relationship, of course -- companies have been slow to spend money on ads for the same reasons they've been slow to spend money hiring workers back. For the economy to enter full-fledged recovery, corporate-types are going to need to shake off some of their conservatism.

Economists forecast that the January jobs report on Friday will bring good news, with a big jump in payrolls. Having seen Budweiser's flatulent horse spot, let's keep our fingers crossed.  Top of page

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