Super Bowl ad controversy: pro-life in, gay dating out. No word yet on monkeys.

January 31, 2010 — Leave a comment

The recession has hit the most expensive airtime on TV: the Super Bowl ad. Prices for thirty seconds of time fell from $3 million last year, to about $2.5 million this year. That could be at least a $10 million loss for CBS. GM is not going to air anything this year. FedEx will be out of the big game again this year. Pepsi, for the first time in 20 years will air nothing. (Coke, by the way, has a very cool idea, and will air ads to point folks to their Facebook page, where you can help them donate to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Way to go.)

So CBS and the NFL wanted to make up for lost revenue this year by allowing special interest groups to run ads during the big game for the first time ever. A pro-life ad will be in. But a couple of relatively tame ads have been rejected by CBS: a gay dating service ad from Mancrunch, and an ad from the online name registration company that got this whole “rejected ad!” strategy going.

And surprise, surprise, the controversy has already increased the buzz for those brands. Not a bad strategy if you don’t have $2.5 million laying around. Hey, it works. People talk about the banned ads, which is worth something, right?

(I was on WISC-TV talking about controversy as a tactic this year. I’ll also be doing my annual blog during the game, and a WISC appearance the day after Super Bowl, talking about the advertising winners and losers. I may also once again be on WTMJ radio in Milwaukee. Shameless self-promotion is now over.)

As an ad guy, I know the controversy tactic works. But as a football fan, all I want out of Super Bowl ads is entertainment. Mindless jokes and fun and exploding stuff and monkeys. Entertainment like the kind found in this brilliant educational ad for FedEx. It may be my favorite Super Bowl ad ever, despite the fact that there are no monkeys.

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