Super Bowl advertisers hope for extra-large laughs
Marketing experts expect funny Super Bowl XL ads from Bud, Burger King and
By Paul R. La Monica, senior writer

NEW YORK ( - Two and a half million dollars isn't pocket change...even for some of the nation's largest companies.

But $2.5 million is the average going rate for a 30-second spot during this coming Sunday's Super Bowl XL. So if you're going to spend that...or more...on Super Bowl ads, your commercials better be good.

Are you ready for some football...and some commercials?
Are you ready for some football...and some commercials?
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No one is more aware of this fact than Marline Coulis, the vice president of brand management for Anheuser-Busch (Research), which will run ten ads during the game.

Coulis is a long-time veteran with the company. But she was just promoted to her current position last year, so this is her first time running the Super Bowl ad campaign for the Bud and Bud Light brewer.

"Our brands and ads are all about humor and ours are the standard by which everyone else is measured," Coulis said. "The challenge is to always raise the bar."

High hopes for Bud, burgers and chimps

One marketing expert said Coulis has nothing to worry about.

"The perennial favorite remains Anheuser-Busch. They traditionally emerge victorious in our polls of the top ads," said Paul Murray, creative director at Pavone, a brand consulting firm based in Harrisburg, Pa. that runs, a Web site where viewers can vote for their favorite commercials.

According to Coulis, Anheuser-Busch will have ads featuring the famous Clydesdale horses, a spot for Bud Light with a bear getting in the way of a thirsty beer drinker and a commercial starring the company's popular new fictional character, Ted Ferguson, Bud Light Daredevil.

Anheuser-Busch will have some tough competition though. Online job recruitment site, which wowed consumers last year with commercials featuring chimpanzees, will be back with two new spots.

Click here for a sneak preview of Super Bowl XL ads

"The chimps will be back in some fashion," promised Richard Castellini, vice president for consumer marketing for Castellini added that the company had record traffic on its Web site during the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday following last year's Super Bowl and that the company hopes to break that record this year.

Murray said another ad he's looking forward to is the one from Burger King. The fast-food chain, which just announced plans to soon file for a public offering, has been a prominent advertiser throughout the National Football League season.

But it's upping the ante for Super Bowl XL with a minute-long musical spot that stars nearly 100 women "dressed" as various ingredients in a Whopper. So naturally, the women are dubbed the Whopperettes.

"It's a dark horse to be the top spot. I'll be avidly watching for the Whopperettes," said Murray.

Russ Klein, chief global marketing officer for Burger King, said the company filmed the spot a few months ago and liked it so much that they decided to buy a spot to run it. He said the company has even designed a Whopperettes Web site that will launch in conjunction with the commercial.

Klein added that the company had planned to advertise this year regardless of whether or not its top competitor McDonald's (Research) did.

McDonald's, which ran a poorly received spot last year about a French fry that resembled Abe Lincoln, decided to skip the Super Bowl this year and focus on the Winter Olympics, which begin on February 10.

Klein also said many viewers may be taken aback to see a musical ad instead of one featuring the King inserted into footage from a football game, a theme the company has used throughout the NFL season. And that's fine with him.

"We want to mystify the brand and create a curiosity. The fact that people will be expecting the King in yet another NFL play is the kind of surprise we like," he said.

Show me the funny!

The Super Bowl isn't just for the most well-known companies though. American HomeHealth, a privately-held firm based in St. Petersburg, Fl., is using the Super Bowl as a way to launch a new product, a cleaner and disinfectant called PS. The stakes are high since the company is not a household name.

"This is brand new. Nobody knows who we are," said Justine Burke, the director of corporate communications for American HomeHealth.

Burke said she hopes humor will cause consumers to be interested in buying the product after seeing the ad, which will feature germ-phobes doing everyday tasks while wearing hazmat suits.

"The ad is witty. The whole point is if you're afraid of germs and bacteria, you can walk around like this or use our product," she said.

Not everyone thinks laughter will work though.

Adam Hanft, founder and CEO of Hanft Unlimited, a branding and advertising consulting firm, said he's particularly skeptical of how ads featuring celebrities will do. PepsiCo (Research) is bringing back P. Diddy and has another ad with Jackie Chan. Bayer (Research) is running one for Aleve with Leonard Nimoy. MasterCard has a spot featuring Richard Dean Anderson of "MacGyver" fame. And Ford (Research) is trotting out Kermit the Frog in an ad for its hybrid SUV.

"Everybody is bemoaning the death of the 30-second commercial and the Super Bowl is the last gasp for commercials having any cultural relevancy," he said. "But the overriding trend is a collapse of imagination."

Dove hopes to soar above the crowd

And at least one company is forgoing a humorous approach and hopes that the commercial's more serious tone will make its ad stand out.

Dove, the Unilever (Research)-owned maker of soap, deodorant and other personal care products, is planning a 45-second spot that it hopes will raise awareness of some of the self-esteem issues that young girls face when it comes to their appearance. The ad is the latest in the company's Campaign for Real Beauty.

Philippe Harousseau, marketing director of Dove, said that the existing ads in this campaign, which tend to feature "real" women, as opposed to supermodels, have already won raves from many consumers for its positive message and boost Dove sales. Harousseau expects the Super Bowl spot to help even more.

"I can absolutely, unashamedly say that the best result we've had with these long-term efforts is the realization that you can do something that is right for the brand and its business development but is also right for women and society," said Harousseau.

Hanft also thinks the spot will be received well, precisely because it will be so different from most of the other commercials.

"Dove has done a good job of promoting truth and authenticity when the whole world has gone ironic and tongue-in-cheek and snarky," he said. "The earnestness may help when everyone is trying to outcool everyone else."

Murray agrees that Dove's ad is likely to be a winner.

"Dove will stand out. Generally the Super Bowl ads are about frat boy humor, so a spot aimed specifically at women will cut through the clutter in a big way," he said.

For more about why truckers hate a pre-game Coke ad, click here.

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