Super Bowl Commercials Preview: 3-D to Beer

"People have assumed, I guess, that because we are in an economic crisis, that the advertisers would be risk averse. From what I've seen so far, I see no evidence of that," Garfield said. "It's not true. It's the same assortment as we see every year, recession or no recession."

Garfield has been reviewing ads for 23 years now. His summary from the ads this year he has already seen: "The jokes are worse. They're not as funny, but I don't think funny is cost-sensitive."

Super Bowl Commercials in 3-D

There will still be plenty of lavish ads and plenty of duds.

"There will be several commercials that people will genuinely be talking about at the water cooler or at the unemployment office on Monday. And there will be a lot of disappointments," Garfield said. "I continue, year after year, to be amazed how much time and money can be spent in pursuit of an extravagant, terrible commercial, this year being no exception."

Two companies are even pushing new 3-D ads that will pop right out of your TV.

An ad for Pepsi's Sobe Lifewater will feature dancing lizards, and DreamWorks Animation offers a 3-D promotion for its upcoming "Monsters vs. Aliens" movie.

Garfield said that even if the ads aren't a success, the buzz around them has helped justify the costs.

"Everybody wants to break through," Garfield said. "So you want to make sure that you have the attention of the audience. If you're spending $100,000 a second you really don't want them to take that opportunity to go to the bathroom."

Appealing to Football Fans

Professor Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said the creation of a "Super Sunday" for advertising stemmed from fears that the massive audience of football fans wouldn't focus in on the commercials.

"The worry was that you would spend this huge amount of money for this big audience and then they would never see your ad because you'd be going out to the microwave or the bathroom," he said.

So they turned the ads into a spectacle of their own.

"For 20 years now, we have all -- like lambs to the slaughter -- fallen for one of the greatest Madison Avenue tricks," Thompson said. "In the end, there are a couple of good ads, but it's not nearly as phenomenal as we have been led to believe it is."

Yet in the days leading up to the game, people inevitably talk and write about the ads. And sure enough, the Monday after the game people talk about their favorites, regardless of their quality.

"There are more laugh-out-loud moments on a mediocre episode of 'The Daily Show' than you'll probably get straight through on the Super Bowl," Thompson said, adding that the Super Bowl celebrations may make some commercials seem more fun than they actually are.

"It doesn't hurt that half the audience might be half-tanked by the time they see the ads."

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