Restaurant company Denny's Corp. and dog-food maker Pedigree are buying what General Motors Corp. can't afford this year: a Super Bowl ad.
For the first time in a decade, no U.S. automaker will advertise during the most-watched U.S. sports event when NBC televises the National Football League's title game Sunday.
“This year's lineup of advertisers may be more reflective of some of the economic challenges the country faces,” said John Rash, director of media analysis at Campbell Mithun, a Minneapolis-based advertising agency whose client H&R Block Inc. bought time during the game.
Despite the challenges, NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., said Friday it was in talks to sell the last two of the 67 spots for the game. The spots have gone for between $2.4 million and $3 million per 30-second slot. NBC sold most of the commercials for less than the $3 million apiece it hoped to get.
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“Considering the state of the economy in the United States, we couldn't be any more thrilled,” said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.
This year, a few commercials will reflect the weak economy, but by and large, the ads aim to deliver glitz, guffaws and groans – as they do every year.
There will be celebrity appearances in ads, including Conan O'Brien for Bud Light, John Turturro for Heineken and Jason Statham for Audi.
Animals will figure prominently again, with Anheuser-Busch's Clydesdales expected to appear in three of seven commercials from the Budweiser brewer. One is a tearjerker about a horse that joins the circus.
The Super Bowl remains the premier advertising event: It boasts a U.S. audience of 100 million, the biggest of any American telecast. It's also a marketer's dream: Viewers actually like watching the commercials.
Denny's, a dining chain with annual revenue of about $900 million, bought its first Super Bowl ad to unveil a new promotion for customers squeezed by the recession, Chief Executive Officer Nelson Marchioli said in an interview.
GM, the largest U.S. carmaker, and FedEx Corp., the country's second-biggest package-shipping company, passed after being Super Bowl advertisers for more than a decade. Detroit-based GM and Chrysler LLC, its Auburn Hills, Mich.-based rival, both sought and received U.S. loans to stave off bankruptcy.