Top Ad Tricks During Recession: Pepsi, Burger King, and Beer Commercials Get Creative

As Americans scramble to find ways to cut costs and expenses in the face of the worst recession in a generation, advertisers and companies are offering extraordinary deals and incentives to lure consumers -- and their wallets -- back into their stores and restaurants.

Car dealerships are running two-for-one promotions, high-end restaurant chains are advertising value meals and even Las Vegas is going downmarket.

"It's a fact that people have closed their pocketbooks," said Steve Hall, the editor of the marketing industry blog "They're saving and listening to economic advisers who are saying do this and not that, and yet there are companies out there whose sole existence depends on people opening up their wallet, taking money out and giving it to them."

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The desperation to stay out of the red has forced many companies to do whatever it takes, says Hall, to retain their customers and possibly attract new business. took a closer look at the Top 10 ways advertisers and companies are turning to desperate measures to promote their products -- and consumer spending -- during the recession.

Pepsi's 'MacGruber' Super Bowl Commercial

Though Pepsi's "Saturday Night Live" sketch-turned-commercial may have initially confused consumers who were unsure whether they were watching a late-night sketch or an ad for the soda, industry insiders say that cutting through the clutter and standing out -- even if you confuse a few viewers -- is imperative during an economic downturn.

"SNL's" "MacGruber" sketches first appeared during the NBC show and then later during the Super Bowl. All were collaborations between "SNL" producers and Pepsi, which paid "SNL" to run the sketches during the program and then also paid for the time during the big game.

In each of the three versions of the ad -- which is a spoof on the 1980s' special agent McGyver -- "SNL" actor Will Forte constantly touts Pepsi products as he and two friends (one of them played by original "McGyver" actor Richard Dean Anderson) try to escape from a building that is about to explode. In the third version of the ad, Forte's obsession with Pepsi has grown and he is no longer making sense when he speaks. He just repeats "Pepsi" over and over again.

"Everyone does product placement, but this was way over the top," said Hall. "The ads illustrated how insanely insane product placement has become."

"This is definitely a result of the poor economy," he said. "Advertisers are finding ways to hold up their products and say their names as much as possible."

David Griner, the social media strategist for marketing agency Luckie & Co. and a writer for Adweek's blog,, said the "MacGruber" campaign was also a way to cut costs, try something new and experiment with ways to advertise effectively without blowing the budget.

"They didn't blow their money on high budget ads but instead found a way to get people to keep talking about it on their own," said Griner.

Starbucks vs. McDonald's McCafe

Daily coffee may be the last place caffeine addicts want to cut corners, but high-end coffee chain Starbucks is quickly learning that even its most loyal customers are cringing at the thought of spending a lot for a cup of joe.

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