EVEN AS network advertising declines, the Super Bowl remains nearly immune. NBC has sold 59 of its 67 half-minute ads to Super Bowl XLIII—just slightly behind Fox's pace last year—for a record $3 million each. While The Wall Street Journal reported that 57 of those spots were sold by September, before the worst of the economic crisis, buyers don't appear to be suffering remorse. Says Dave DeCecco, a spokesman for PepsiCo, "We can't afford not to participate. When you consider how many people watch, the costs are pretty good."
Last February's Super Bowl drew a record 97.4 million viewers, so the $2.7 million ads broke down to a cost per mille (i.e., the cost to reach 1,000 viewers) of $27.70. By comparison, an ad during an ordinary Sunday-night game on NBC costs $434,792; with an average of 11.7 million viewers through 10 games this fall, that's a cost per mille of $37.16. "[The Super Bowl] is still the only time you can reach pretty much everyone who's watching TV on a given day," says Peter Gardiner, chief press officer for the media-planning company Deutsch Inc.
E*Trade was one of last February's big winners, taking two ads in the big game even though its stock had lost about 80% of its value over the previous year. E*Trade's talking baby ads were a hit, and the company saw a 32% jump in newly opened and funded brokerage accounts the ensuing week, as compared with the same week in 2007 when it did not have a Super Bowl ad. And while troubled General Motors won't have an ad for the first time in a decade, that decision came partly because the automaker won't have a major product launch in early 2009.
According to John Osborn, president of the ad agency BBDO New York, which will produce several spots for Super Bowl XLIII, companies which have bought time on the broadcast aren't spending less on casting or effects. That's because the ads aren't just widely watched but, with all the pregame and postgame buzz about them, very closely watched. Another reason they just might remain a $3 million bargain.