Super Bowl Commercials Preview: 3-D to Beer

Millions of Americans now out of work are cutting back on their spending. But that isn't stopping companies from paying up to $100,000 a second -- yes $100,000 a second -- to advertise during Sunday's Super Bowl.

Anheuser-Busch will be back in force along with Pepsi, H&R Block and the most of the usual suspects in the advertising industry's annual exercise in extravagance.

But not everybody will be along for the party. Victoria's Secret, General Motors and FedEx -- all struggling in this recession -- pulled their ads from the big game.

And, depending on who you ask, other advertisers are clearly changing the tone of their commercials to better reflect the mood of the nation.

Beer to Pet Food Commercials

Barbara Lippert, ad critic for Adweek, said to expect spots this year that are "more cute than edgy."

"The tone issue is a problem for advertisers because on the one hand people want a bastion of relief and they want to be entertained and they want to sit back and relax. And at the other hand, advertisers don't want to seem insensitive," Lippert said. "I think they are all pretty much going to side on the side of funny animals and babies."

Entering the big game for the first time this year is dog food maker Pedigree. The company's lighthearted ad features a rhinoceros, ostrich, warthog and a bull and encourages people to adopt a dog.

Sunday's match-up of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals is expected to attract nearly 100 million viewers. (Remember, there are only about 300 million people in the country.)

NBC is broadcasting the Super Bowl for the first time in 11 years. Originally, the network was charging advertisers a premium: $3 million for a 30-second spot, about $300,000 more than last year's prices. More than 80 percent of the ad time was sold by mid-September.

But then the economy sank even further and NBC had to discount some time slots. On Wednesday, the network still had two spots for sale.

Super Bowl Ads Still Expensive

Dick Ebersol, chairman, NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, told reporters on a conference call that all of the ads sold "at prices above $2.4 million, a large number of them as high as $3 million."

"Considering the state of the economy in the United States, we couldn't be any more thrilled with where we are," Ebersol said.

In recent years, online job-hunting sites such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com have emerged as big Super Bowl advertisers. With layoffs coming in virtually ever corner of the economy and country, don't expect them to disappear.

"I think now more than ever people are interested in watching ads for employment companies," Lippert said. "I think they just need to make a great ad."

Helping You Find Jobs

CareerBuilder this year gives viewers the telltale signs of when it may be time to search for a new job. They include the obvious --- you hate going to work and cry constantly -- and some not such obvious ones: "you daydream of punching small animals."

'The Jokes Are Worse'

Bob Garfield, a columnist with Advertising Age, said talk about advertisers changing tone is "a mystery to me."

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