Rookie Super Bowl advertiser Kellogg's Frosted Flakes hopes to make a gr-r-reat first impression by using its high-priced ad time to promote doing good.
It won't have the field to itself for charity messages, however. Another first-timer, Pedigree pet foods, will promote dog adoption to the more than 90 million viewers expected on Feb. 1. Kellogg and Pedigree won't say what they paid for the time, but NBC has said 30-second slots are averaging $3 million.
The breakfast biggie's 30-second spot — which includes spokesman Tony the Tiger — asks viewers to go to FrostedFlakes.com and nominate a kids playing field to be rebuilt on Kellogg's dime. The ad shows a run-down field morph into a lush playground.
Rachel Winer, account director at Kellogg's ad agency Leo Burnett, says the earnest ad will stand out. "We decided to zig when everyone else was going to zag," she says.
Pedigree is going for comedy with a 30-second ad that shows pet owners who adopted wild animals instead of pooches. "You don't want to ruin a Super Bowl party" with a downer, says Chris Adams, a creative director at agency TBWA/Chiat/Day Los Angeles.
In one scene, an ostrich chases a mailman. In another, a rhino is so excited to be going for a walk, it bursts through its owner's closed door.
Such spending to promote a cause instead of a product might seem counterintuitive, but Pedigree says each time it runs adoption-related ad campaigns, it sees double-digit sales increases. The message makes people "feel good about buying our products," marketing director John Anton says.
A risk, however, is that in this economy, a costly ad buy promoting a pet cause could come across as inappropriate, warns Kelly O'Keefe, a professor at ad school VCU Brandcenter.
Some viewers may agree with USA TODAY reader Phil Morgan of St. Marys, Ga., who says money for game ads should instead go directly to a charity.
Other than the National Football League's annual ad promoting ties with the United Way, philanthropic Super Bowl ads have been uncommon. Most recently, Dove aired an ad that promoted self-esteem for girls.
An Anheuser-Busch Super Bowl ad for Bud Light also will have a charity element, but unseen. It has talk show host Conan O'Brien, who asked A-B to donate his fee to The Fresh Air Fund.