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Super Bowl ads: Giant cost, mixed returns

Anheuser-Busch's Clydesdales and Bridgestone Tires score with viewers. Salesgenie and GM fail to impress.

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By Ben Rooney, CNNMoney.com staff writer

What did you think of this year's Super Bowl ads?
  • The best ever
  • Pretty good
  • Not so hot
  • Totally lame
Super Bowl Spending
CNNMoney.com's Super Bowl spending index tracks everything from the dips and chips, to the mega-dollars behind football's biggest game.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The New York Giants' victory over the New England Patriots Sunday night was one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, but the advertising effort during the big game was not quite as inspiring.

"We had a mixed bag of commercials this year. Some were really strong and some hard to follow," said Tim Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

According to preliminary results from Adbowl, a Web site that polls opinions of Super Bowl ads, Anheuser-Busch's (BUD, Fortune 500) Budweiser commercial featuring one of the brewer's trademark Clydesdales being "trained" by a Dalmatian came in as the most popular.

Bridgestone Firestone also fared well, according to Spotbowl, another Web site dedicated to ranking Super Bowl ads. The tiremaker was ranked first, with an ad about tires avoiding a squirrel in the road, and fifth, with an ad about tires avoiding fitness guru Richard Simmons and singer Alice Cooper, on the site's list of top spots early Monday.

The stakes couldn't have been higher for companies advertising in this year's big game. The average cost for one 30-second spot during Super Bowl XLII was $2.7 million, according to Fox, the News Corp (NWS.A).-owned network that broadcast the Super Bowl.

But the sheer number of people watching the Super Bowl can make the investment worthwhile if the ad is effective at capturing people's attention. Last year, the big game was the highest rated TV show in the U.S. with more than 93 million people tuning in, according to Nielsen

Automakers Hyundai and General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) both ranked near the bottom of Spotbowl's list.

SalesGenie.com's ad was among the least effective Super Bowl ads, according to Calkins. The online provider of sales leads and mailing lists aired a commercial that was widely regarded as the worst of last year's Super Bowl ads.

Several advertising experts said that Procter & Gamble's (PG, Fortune 500) Tide commercial featuring a "talking stain" was an unexpected success.

"Normally the big packaged goods companies don't get what the Super Bowl is about," said Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland Advertising.

Anheuser-Busch, which purchased the most advertising time this year, scored with the Clydesdale ad. But the brewer did not dominate the post-game advertising polls the way it normally does and several advertising experts said the brewer's commercials were formulaic and predictable.

When it comes to cross-platform advertising, or Internet tie-ins, Go Daddy was one of the most effective. The Internet domain name company, which has developed a reputation for pushing risqué ads, produced a spot called "Exposure" that Fox deemed inappropriate. Go Daddy decided to use its 30-second Super Bowl spot to inform viewers that "Exposure" was posted on its Web site. To top of page

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