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Peter Funt: Viewers really ad up

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Peter Funt
January 31, 2014

Has anyone invented a DVR that automatically skips the programs so you can watch only the commercials?

Based on the frenzy over high-priced, elaborately produced ads for Super Bowl XLVIII, you’d think there might actually be a market for such a thing. A colleague of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous because he fears being viewed as unmanly, un-American or anti-social, says he’s watching the commercials but not the game.

Cue the Budweiser puppy spot. Even before kickoff, it was this year’s big winner. Fade in: Adorable puppy escapes from a kennel—visits some Clydesdales at the ranch next door—is returned to his owner—escapes again—and finally (cue tears) horses block the road so the puppy can’t be sent away ever again! Cut to Budweiser logo.

“Puppy Love,” as the spot is titled, was “released” on NBC’s “Today” show, “exclusively,” five days before the Super Bow—along with an in-depth feature on how the spot was produced. Jake Scott, the director, noted that Don Jeanes, who plays the rancher, “is the real deal because he grew up around horses.” Ah, it’s those touches that allow great commercials to really sell beer.

Snicker though we might, Anheuser-Busch is laughing all the way to the pub. In the first 24 hours after its release on YouTube, the commercial was viewed more than 15 million times.

Advertisers are paying Fox roughly $4 million for each 30-second spot. Is it worth it? Last year, according to research by Google, Super Bowl ads were watched 80 million times before the game even started. This year, pre-game viewing of commercials was said to be running at almost double last year’s pace.

Cue SodaStream’s “banned” Super Bowl spot. Actress Scarlett Johansson demonstrates the home soda-making machine—sips provocatively through a straw—drops her robe, and coos, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.” Cut! Fox won’t allow the ad to run. Too sexy? Nah. Seems Pepsi is sponsoring the halftime show and doesn’t want to be dissed by the competition.

Naturally, the uncut “banned” version of the ad went viral, with more online views than any other 2014 Super Bowl commercial. An edited version runs Sunday.

Meanwhile, only in our media-driven Oz could CBS run a one-hour special containing “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials,” while YouTube devotes an entire channel to what it calls “Ad Blitz: Watch, vote and share your favorite 2014 Super Bowl Commercials.”

Viewers will select the game’s most popular commercial. And what does the winning ad get? A free ad on YouTube’s home page!

Fifteen years ago, a 30-second ad in the big game cost $1.6 million. Despite a rate increase of over 150 percent, Super Bowl ads remain competitively priced when measured against the cost-per-thousand for other programming. And with the Super Bowl, advertisers get the extra buzz and free exposure on talk shows, online and even, I suppose, in columns like this.

Cue the winner in CBS’ “Best Crazy Super Bowl Commercial” category. It’s Taco Bell’s “Viva Young.” (Have you noticed that Super Bowl commercials are so cool that they all have actual titles?) The scene is a nursing home—after lights-out, several residents flee—they run wild in town—pulling pranks—getting tattoos—and eating at Taco Bell. Cut to slogan: “Live măs.”

Lest you think Americans don’t take their Super Bowl commercials seriously, consider the uproar on CBS.com. “The CBS voting was a sham,” posted Mary L. “Who picked the ones to vote on?” asked Mark H. “Laughable!”

“The commercials you want me to vote on are stupid,” wrote Phillip G. “CBS owes an apology,” added W.C.

And from Maryann H., “Maybe the monkeys are running CBS.”

Americans are apparently so bored with on-field hype that they watch the football game like a kid who ignores his toy and plays with the carton it came in.

You have to wonder if the Broncos and Seahawks could ever raise as much passion as do the commercials.

Peter Funt’s book, “Cautiously Optimistic,” is available at CandidCamera.com. His columns are distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.



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