Super Bowl Advertising: Play-By-Play on the Big Game's Commercials

Advocacy ads and funny favorites are set to air during Sunday's game.

January 20, 2010, 10:30 PM

Feb. 5, 2010— -- This Super Bowl Sunday, hundreds of millions of eyes will be glued to TV sets for the big game. As the Colts and Saints prepare to square off on the field, advertisers are readying for another year of eye-popping ads.

In our commercial-skipping, DVR era, you'd think viewers would be annoyed by all those ads, but the Super Bowl might be the one broadcast that bucks the trend. According to a survey from the Nielsen Company, over half of viewers say they enjoy the ads more than the actual game.

The buzz for this year's ads has been building for weeks. Here are five categories of commercials to look for when you sit down for this Sunday's game.


Some of this year's ads are pushing a lot more than soda… they're selling ideology. The most prominent example is a "Right to Life" commercial featuring Heisman winner Tim Tebow. Conservative Christian organization 'Focus on the Family' is paying for the spot, which CBS agreed to run despite a longstanding policy banning advocacy ads. That ad hasn't been released yet, but Planned Parenthood has already put out its own rebuttal on YouTube, featuring pro football player Sean James and Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner. "We're working toward the day where every woman will be valued," James says in the ad, "where every woman's decision about her health and her family will be respected."


Then, there are those ads that won't be seen at all. Some have been deemed too racy for broadcast by CBS., the domain registration site, has made an art in recent years of generating buzz through banned commercials. This year, a gay dating site is using the same tactic. ManCrunch submitted an ad featuring two male football fans kissing, but CBS's standards and practices department rejected it outright and suggested the company was just looking for free publicity.

Some Ads Kept Out of the Game

CBS also initially turned down a commercial for the video game "Dante's Inferno" because it used the phrase "Go to Hell." The game's maker then changed the tag to "Hell Awaits," and the spot was cleared for air.


If one theme has been consistent in Super Bowl ads over the years, it's humor. Plenty of advertisers have hoped to sell product by making viewers laugh – from the Budweiser frogs to an IT company's cat herders.

Noteworthy this year: Chevy Chase returns to his National Lampoon days, taking up the role of Clark Griswold for an ad for, a vacation rental Web site. The spot also includes his fictional wife from the film series, played by Beverly D'Angelo.


Your tax dollars will also be at work this weekend. The Census Bureau is forking over some $2.5 million of its ad budget during the Super Bowl, encouraging the millions of fans to participate in the 2010 census. But even if they spend $3 million on one ad, it's just part of a major push. The bureau has a $340 million ad budget for this year.


And finally, there are some advertisers that have been Super Bowl staples in the past, but they're sitting out the 2010 game.

Pepsi is one surprise – the soft drink maker has been advertising in the game for over 20 years, including famous ads with Britney Spears and Cindy Crawford. The company spent $15 million on Pepsi ads in the 2009 Super Bowl, but this year, it'll spend nothing. Instead, Pepsi is funneling its ad dollars into social media. A company spokesperson told ESPN that going forward, Pepsi's ads will be "less about a singular event and more about a movement."

American automakers GM and Ford are also sitting out this year. Several foreign carmakers are advertising, but only one American company will run an ad – Chrysler. The company is reportedly planning a 60-second ad for its Dodge Charger.

But even with those no-shows, it's still shaping up to be a very profitable Super Bowl Sunday for CBS. The network has had no trouble selling commercials for the 2010 game, despite the down economy. All of the ad space for the game has been sold, and CBS is reportedly getting around $3 million for every 30 second spot. That's a lot of dough, considering that 50 to 60 ads will run during the game.

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