It's the Super Bowl of Advertising, Too

By now, director Ridley Scott's Orwellian spot for Apple Computer is a pop-culture legend -- and probably the most famous television commercial in history.

The Apple spot aired just once, on Jan. 22, 1984 -- Super Bowl Sunday. But those 60 seconds launched a fledgling company and rewrote the rules of Super Bowl advertising.

Scott's ad cost about $800,000 to air, which seems quaint by today's standards. Advertisers will shell out as much as $2.6 million for each 30-second spot during Super Bowl XLI.

That's the most expensive ad buy in television history, eclipsing last year's game. But companies believe it's worth it. An estimated 90 million people worldwide will tune into the game on CBS on Feb. 4.

Scoring a choice seat at a Super Bowl party has become as much about catching a glimpse of the commercials as watching the game itself.

Pregame Hype for the Commercials, Too

This year, more than ever, major advertisers have rolled out the hype long before you crack open that first beer. Marketers are trying to get more bang for their game-day ad bucks by running marketing contests, promoting online voting and offering online previews to drive interest and increase online traffic.

"They're trying to drum up a lot of excitement before the Bowl," said Jonah Bloom, editor of Advertising Age. "The point today is to try to drive people to your Web site."

Along with the traditional over-the-top and celebrity-driven ads, several major companies have put the creative torch into the hands of everyday people. The NFL, Chevy and Doritos will all run consumer-generated ads during the Super Bowl.

The sky-high price tag usually means the ad buys are limited to the biggest, most well-established companies, along with a couple of smaller companies looking to make a big splash. "The lineup of advertisers won't come as a big surprise," Bloom said.

Among this year's buyers are FedEx, General Motors,, Pepsi and Taco Bell. There are a couple of new additions though.

Coca-Cola will return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998, while Snapple will make its debut this year.

But there may be room for some surprises. Bloom said a few advertisers have eschewed pregame hype, choosing instead to keep quiet so they can make the big "unveil."

Early Buzz on K-Fed's Infamy

Some Super Bowl commercials have already started generating buzz.

Nationwide Insurance has solicited Kevin Federline to star in its "Life Comes at You Fast" campaign ad. Following in the footsteps of Fabio and MC Hammer, Federline will poke fun at himself in the spot, which finds him daydreaming about being a rapper while working at a fast food joint.

"There's not a week when he's not on the front cover of one of the celeb rags," said Bloom. "It will certainly catch some attention."

And it already has, but probably not the kind some ad executives intended. The National Restaurant Association blasted the commercial's concept, which debuted on Nationwide's Web site Monday, calling it demeaning to the 12.8 million Americans who work in the restaurant industry. Nationwide quickly shot back, arguing that the spot is meant to be "a humorous take on one person's life."

Paris Hilton also joins the ranks of this year's Super Bowl commercials. She's among the celebrities slated to appear in an all-star NFL Network commercial, alongside L.L. Cool J, Martha Stewart and others.

Also expected on game day are remnants of Super Bowl of yore.

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