NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Super Bowl advertising ranks are usually filled with the big boys of marketing: Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo. And now: Cash4Gold?
The Pompano Beach, Fla., company, whose direct-response TV ads have become near-ubiquitous on the airwaves as consumers seek ways to make money while the economy flails, will run a 30-second commercial in the third quarter of this weekend's Super Bowl, said Howard Mofshin, president of Cash4Gold's parent, Green Bullion Financial Services. Another 60-second ad will appear during the pre-game show on NBC, this year's Super Bowl broadcaster. The company said it believes it is the first direct-response advertiser to join the Super Bowl ad roster.
Cash4Gold has seen steady growth since its CEO, Jeff Aronson, turned his precious-metals refinery toward a singular vision: being able "to offer our services to the public and being able to help them through tough economic times," Mr. Mofshin said. "We had a vision that times were getting more difficult, and we knew there's really no direct way to sell your gold, except to local jewelers who usually want to take it in as a trade-in."
Cash4Gold's appearance in the Super Bowl offers proof of the burgeoning power of an often-overlooked breed of marketer. Direct-response advertisers pepper the airwaves with commercials hawking entrepreneurs' inventions, CDs laden with hits from the '60s and '70s, free credit reports and headache remedies. They often capture attention despite their low production values, fast-talking announcers and quirky spokespeople.
In tough economic times, these ads seem to gather more traction, particularly as TV networks find it harder to sell inventory amid an economic pullback. Direct-response advertisers usually pay less for their ads in exchange for allowing the network that runs them to place the commercials in a particular time period. Ads featuring famous direct-response pitchmen such as Ron Popeil and Billy Mays often turn up in less-watched time periods, such as overnight or early morning on weekends.
And yet, the companies that run these ads can do quite well. Mr. Popeil, who famously founded Ronco and sold smokeless ashtrays, Hair in a Can and the Showtime Rotisserie, has been touted as a bootstrapping entrepreneur. Guthy-Renker, a direct-response marketer known for hawking Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts and a skin-care system from actress Victoria Principal, has lured celebrities including Kelly Clarkson and Jessica Simpson to tout its acne fighter, Proactiv.
On an upswing
Cash4Gold is experiencing an upswing, Mr. Mofshin said. Since Cash4Gold was founded in 2007, he said, the company has grown from two people to 350, and executives intend to hire another 150 people in 2009. He estimated Cash4Gold will refine between 150,000 and 200,000 ounces of gold this year.
The company made its Super Bowl purchase in early January. "We figured that the Super Bowl, which is probably the most-watched event for both men and women in the country, would be a greatest place to get our message and our brand out to the public," Mr Mofshin said.
Cash4Gold enlisted Havas' Euro RSCG Edge to make the spot featuring famous but financially ailing pitchmen Ed McMahon and MC Hammer. "I've used Cash4Gold before, and that's why I am happy to spread the word by appearing in their ad," said Mr. McMahon in a statement. Viewers could well see Mr. McMahon trying to have a gold hip replacement exchanged for cash, Mr. Mofshin said. "They are trying to one-up each other, and the things they are sending in get more outrageous with each shot," he said.
Go Daddy veteran
One of the creative forces behind the commercial is director Bryan Buckley, who was involved in early efforts by Go Daddy, a once little-known registrar of web domain names that is now a perennial Super Bowl advertiser. He is also a veteran of many Super Bowl ad shoots.
While Cash4Gold is bound to get lots of attention for its Super Bowl ad, it will have to break some direct-response habits. NBC will not allow any Super Bowl advertiser to slap an 800 number on the TV screen, Mr. Mofshin said, but no worries: Other tried-and-true consumer-motivation techniques will still be present. "We're not allowed to have 800 numbers," Mr. Mofshin said, "but 'Cash4Gold.com' is prevalent throughout the commercial."