Anheuser-Busch to Advertise in Super Bowl, Sun to Rise in the East

There's Got to Be a Better Rallying Point

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Oh, Leslie. Surely you can do better than that.

When it comes to mustering optimism for the roiling TV business, there's no one better than CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves. Auto ad revenue in the tank? Les will tell you it's bottoming out and on the way back. TV ratings on the wane? Maybe at those other guys on the dial, but not at CBS. He's fortunate to run a TV network that runs shows nearly any couch-potato can dip into -- "CSI" police procedurals that require very little catch-up on back story.

So we wonder why he wasn't just a tad more effusive about Super Bowl ad sales in a recent interview with Bank of America-Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen. Yes, Mr. Moonves noted that "presales are going very well" and said the network is "somewhat ahead of where we were three years ago" when it last broadcast the game. But in trying to describe the sales situation, he cited the presence of an advertiser whose presence isn't likely to raise a single eyebrow.

"Anheuser-Busch is already in place, and they are the biggest advertiser in the Super Bowl. So, we're anticipating doing very well with it," said Mr. Moonves.

When in the last decade or more of Super Bowl advertising has Anheuser not been in the game? The CBS ad-sales team could spend its time playing tiddly-winks and still sell ad time for Bud and Bud Light ads.

Perhaps CBS hasn't gotten sign-off from other clients to divulge their ad purchases, but Pepsi and Careerbuilder.com have already confirmed they'll advertise in Super Bowl XLIV in February. GoDaddy.com, that registrar of web-domain names that generates controversy for its "risqué" ads, has also confirmed it has purchased two spots. And two people familiar with the situation tell Advertising Age that Coca-Cola will be back for a fourth straight year, spotlighting yet again the fact that the Super Bowl continues to function not only as a gridiron battle but also as a face-off between the nation's largest beverage marketers.

CBS has sold about 65% of its Super Bowl inventory at prices ranging from $2.5 million to $3 million for a 30-second TV commercial in a top position -- not as great as NBC's more than 80% sell-out at this time last year, but still something to crow about in difficult economic times.

We're thinking that's the type of stuff we would expect to hear from Mr. Moonves. Instead, it looks like we just did his job for him.

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