As always, Madison Avenue ad wizards have whipped up a new batch of Super Bowl Sunday ads, and this year those 30-second spots were sold for a record $2.2 million a pop.
Although the Super Bowl is probably the best showcase in the world for ads, some companies are skittish about competing in that arena.
Prices for commercial time during the big game have increased by more than 450 percent in the past 20 years alone. In 1982, for example, 30 seconds of advertising on the Super Bowl cost an estimated $324,300 on average. By 2002, the going rate for 30 seconds had reached $1.9 million.
"It's a colossal gamble," Bob Garfield of Advertising Age told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "Maybe it's efficient because it reaches lots of eyeballs … But it's a risk if the game's a bust and no one's watching in the 4th quarter."
The ads are typically kept under wraps until game day, but Garfield — who gets a sneak preview annually — shared five of them from companies that allowed them to be shown in advance.
"Actually getting the ads in hand is like trying to extract nuclear secrets, weapons of mass destruction," Garfield said. "Every one of these clients thinks they have the Holy Grail, and are unbelievably cautious to the point of paranoia about releasing them."
Willie Nelson Gets a Shave
One that Garfield considered funny is for H & R Block, the nation's largest tax-preparation firm, which features country singer Willie Nelson. In the past, the musician has had tax troubles, and in the commercial's first scene, a fictitious "Smoothie's Shaving Cream" asks him to be their spokesman. His agent is shown snootily declining.
"It's not about the money," his agent said. "This is Willie Nelson."
But then Nelson hears from his tax agent who tells him that he has a small problem.
"We made a little mistake on your taxes," the tax agent said. "You owe $30 million."
The next thing you know, Nelson is in a locker room set, face covered in shaving cream, shooting the commercial. "My face is burning" he gripes.
Then comes the pitch from H & R Block: "Don't get bad advice. Let H&R Block double-check your taxes free. We'll find what others miss."
Do Celebrities Add to Ads?
Another commercial uses celebrities, Michael Jordan and actor Jackie Chan to introduce Hanes' tagless T-shirts.
Chan scratches at the back of his T-shirt, and Jordan looks at him as if to say "What's the problem?"
Then the basketball legend declares, "It's gotta be the tag," and the voiceover says "Hanes introduces the tagless tee. No tag, no itch."
In both the H & R block and the Hanes ad, the celebrities are well paid, but it's not really clear whether their name value and recognition factor actually boost the product, Garfield said.
"You'll see three things this Super Bowl," Garfield said. "Lots of humor, lots of celebrities, and more storytelling than usual in commercials."
Celebrity ads are sometimes used to great effect — as in the Willie Nelson case, where he is really connected to the product, Garfield said.
Squirrelly Gum Ad
We've all heard the Trident ad that boasts, "Four out of five dentists surveyed would recommend Trident for their patients who chew gum," but in its new commercial the gum company finally explains what got into that fifth dentist. .