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Super Bowl Draws New
Advertisers Despite Record Price

By Skip Wollenberg   Associated Press
NEW YORK — The St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans aren't the only ones fine-tuning their moves for the Super Bowl.

The work of Madison Avenue's advertising firms will be on display during Sunday's game, with an expected audience of more than 100 million people. It is a showcase date for television commercials.

Eight percent of those watching will be tuning in just to see the ads, according to researcher Eisner Communications. Explained veteran commercial buyer Bill Croasdale of Western Initiative Media: "Virtually the whole country comes to a standstill when the Super Bowl comes on."

This year, about a dozen Internet companies are forking over the highest prices ever paid for TV commercials so they can join regulars like Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi-Cola and FedEx on the show.

There were only two dot-coms in last year's game (three if you count lingerie marketer Victoria's Secret, which advertised its fashion show Webcast).

"Some companies are out there on hope and a prayer, but it's part of the new economy," said Jeffrey Taylor, chief executive of online job site Monster.com, one of the Internet advertisers in the 1999 game.

Monster and a rival employment site, Hotjobs.com, each said that visits to their sites soared after last year's Super Bowl exposure, and both are back. They are joined by information provider Britannica.com; the job site Kforce.com, wedding stationery supplier OurBeginning.com and technology adviser Computer.com.

ABC officials say the companies helped push the commercial price to an average of $2.2 million — that's $73,333 per second — for 61 half-minute commercials. The top price for an ad was said to be more than $3 million.

The average is a whopping 38 percent more than the previous record $1.6 million that the Fox network claimed for ads in last year's Super Bowl. The price went up even though the average audience rating tumbled 9 percent last year to the lowest level since 1990.

The attraction is that the Super Bowl delivers the year's highest TV ratings and audiences over the past seven years in the 120 million to 130 million range.

Anheuser-Busch, brewer of Budweiser, is the single biggest Super Bowl advertiser with five minutes of commercial time in the game.

Its ads include one designed to tug on your heart strings by showing the birth of a new Clydesdale horse and another with former hockey star Wayne Gretzky driving a tipsy friend home from a bar on a Zamboni machine.

Pepsi will pitch its hot-selling Mountain Dew. One ad shows a bike rider chasing a cheetah across African plains, capturing and reaching inside the cat to retrieve a stolen can of the soda.

FedEx inserts a delivery truck into clips from the classic "Wizard of Oz" movie to show its couriers reach "places other shipping companies can only imagine."

Pets.com's ad features its sock puppet singing "Don't Go" in a plea to owners to spend more time with their pets by using the Web retailer for pet supplies. Hotjobs shows its new computer hand icon driving a hard bargain in a job interview while Tropicana pitches orange juice as "the best 9.3 seconds you can possibly spend on yourself."

The World Wrestling Federation and Seven-Up each had ads rejected by the ABC standards office, but came up with alternatives.

The WWF, which won't specify what ABC found objectionable, says its new ad shows "the unabashed excitement of WWF fans in unexpected places." Seven-Up's original ad got thrown out because it contained an off-color phrase. Its new one may not be much better. It exhorts consumers to "show us your cans."

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