These days, there's no shame in admitting it: You might watch this year's Super Bowl broadcast not for the game but for the suprising, titilating and sometimes downright zany commercials that take over your TV in between the gridiron action.
Advertisers themselves gravitate toward the Super Bowl for a different reason: Super Bowl games consistently rank as among the most-watched network broadcasts ever; last year, more than 98.7 million viewers tuned into the game, according to the Nielsen Company. The numbers are irresistible to advertisers in an increasingly fragmented media landscape and that's why some shell out millions for spots often just 30 seconds in length.
CBS, the network airing the game this year, announced earlier this week that it had sold out of all its Super Bowl ad airtime. The network declined to comment on reports that it sold ad spots for between $2.5 million and $2.8 million, but a source at CBS said that some 30-second spots were sold for more than $3 million.
Some familiar Super Bowl advertisers are off the roster this year: recession-battered General Motors won't be running any ads and neither will Pepsi-Cola.
Pepsi spokeswoman Nicole Bradley said the company chose not to advertise in the big game this year in favor of other marketing strategies, including the Pepsi Refresh Project, a new program awarding people grants for "ideas that wll move the world forward."
"The Super Bowl broadcast can be an amazing stage for advertisers if it aligns with their brand strategy," she said. "In 2010, each of our beverage brands has a strategy and marketing platform that will be less about a singular event, more about a movement."
Pepsi-Cola parent company PepsiCo will still have a Super Bowl presence this year, however, through commercials for its Doritos brand chips.
Both Doritos and Super Bowl advertising favorite Budweiser are participating in a Super Bowl advertising trend this year, ad experts say: Asking customers to weigh in on ads online before they've made their TV debut.
"The trend is actually to try to use social media to build communities," said Larry Woodard, an ABCNews.com advertising columnist and the CEO of the ad agency Vigilante. "They're just trying to capture people, capture data and have them have an experience with a brand."
The slumping economy has made advertisers more eager to try to engage consumers online, Woodard said.
"If you're in a recession and the commercial is expensive, then you have to try to get some mileage out of it," he said.
Doritos will air three commericals during the Super Bowl this year and all three will be the work of Doritos customers themselves. For the fourth year in a row, the chip company has run a contest encouraging consumers to produce their own Doritos ads for the Super Bowl.
This year, out of 4,000 entries, Doritos picked six finalists then asked Americans to vote online for their favorite ad. The winning three entries will get air time during the game and, if those commercials earn top ratings by USA Today consumers panel, the commerials' creators could receive hundreds of thousands to millions in cash prizes.
There was an uproar by Budweiser fans last month when it appeared the brewer would not include its beloved Clydesdale mascots in this year's Super Bowl ads.