FedEx: Now's not the time
Steve Pacheco, ad director at Super Bowl stalwart FedEx, wrote on a company blog that the $3 million for a 30-second spot on NBC's telecast wasn't a prudent expenditure in tough economic times. "Make no mistake, our advertising presence in 18 Super Bowls since 1989 has strategically allowed FedEx to establish itself as a household name," Mr. Pacheco wrote. "As a responsible employer of more than 290,000 employees and contractors worldwide, there is a time to justify such an ad spend and a time to step back. ... A Super Bowl ad buy is not where we should put dollars at this time."
That news -- along with the fact that BBDO has lost prolific Super Bowl advertiser Pepsi in the U.S. to fellow Omnicom agencies TBWA/Chiat/Day and Arnell Group -- leaves the onetime MVP agency of Super Bowl advertising prepping only half the spots it did last year. BBDO will produce only three commercials for Super Bowl XLIII, down from six commercials produced for the 2008 Super Bowl, seven in 2007 and five in 2006. BBDO's only spots for the 2009 Super Bowl will be a 60-second commercial for the National Football League, a 30-second for Monster.com, and one more of undetermined length for NBC parent General Electric Co. (The game is being broadcast on NBC on Feb. 1.)
It's a surprising development for an agency that over the years has produced a steady stream of memorable Super Bowl ads not only for Pepsi and FedEx, but for Visa, Pizza Hut, Frito-Lay, Gillette, Charles Schwab and more.
'It's who they are'
A BBDO spokeswoman referred calls to FedEx regarding the shipping company's decision not to advertise during the Super Bowl. Asked about the agency being down to just three commercials during the game, the spokeswoman declined to comment.
Legendary adman Jerry Della Femina said it's a blow to BBDO's DNA. "It's who they are. BBDO, they were the king of the Super Bowl. They would be preparing the day after the Super Bowl for next year's Super Bowl," said Mr. Della Femina, CEO of Della Femina, Rothschild, Jeary & Partners, New York. "That was their big thing. I don't see anybody taking their place. The question is, now that they're gone ... will they be back?"
Pepsi ads created by BBDO have won six of the 20 USA Today Ad Meter polls, in which readers judge and critique the Super Bowl's commercials. But the agency hasn't won the crown since a 1998 Pepsi spot featuring a sky-surfer and a goose. Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser or Bud Light -- handled by Omnicom sibling DDB -- has won every year since.
'The Greatest of All-Time'
BBDO created some eight and a half minutes of spots for the game as recently as Super Bowl XXXV in 2001 for Pepsi, Visa, Pizza Hut and Frito-Lay, which included the rollout of the "Joy of Pepsi" campaign.
In 1997, the agency persuaded Muhammad Ali to appear in a spot for Pizza Hut that would air during the 1998 Super Bowl, introducing the fast-food chain's new pizza, "The Greatest." Mr. Ali's nickname was "The Greatest of All-Time." The spot was produced with plenty of time to go before the big game, but Pizza Hut officials decided at the eleventh hour to postpone the launch of "The Greatest" and continue marketing "The Edge." BBDO started on Dec. 15, 1997, to produce a spot featuring "The Edge," and had it done in time for the Jan. 26, 1998 Super Bowl.
For that same Super Bowl, BBDO produced a spot for FedEx entitled "Apology." The commercial featured no sound or pictures, only color bars and text -- which told viewers they should be seeing an advertisement for a fictional company, but the company's ad agency used another shipping company, and the ad never arrived.
Separately, the Hollywood Reporter today said a Los Angeles ad agency, Cesario Migliozzi, plans to pay $3 million for a 30-second commercial on the Big Game and divvy it up among eight marketers to sell products simultaneously. The idea is to guarantee marketers that each of their logos will appear on screen the entire 30 seconds at a cost to each advertiser estimated at $395,000 each.