Bowl to be super tame

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For better or worse, the 2004 Super Bowl was all about enduring imagery. Pharmaceutical giants put long-lasting erections front of mind, while other advertisers enlisted the help of farting horses, flirting monkeys, cussing kids and crotch-biting dogs to hawk their wares. On stage, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake achieved the dream of all marketers by propelling a new phrase into the American lexicon: "wardrobe malfunction."

This year things are likely to be tamer. The National Football League has made it clear it doesn't want any embarrassment and is keeping a close watch on the ads for anything too close to the bone. Super Bowl broadcaster Fox Network has already nixed a spot featuring the bare bottom of actor Mickey Rooney, who appeared in a commercial for a cold remedy from Airborne.

Does that mean the ads won't be as much fun? "The one thing I've learned is to expect the unexpected," said John Osborn, president-CEO BBDO, New York. His Omnicom Group agency is producing spots for Visa and FedEx this year.

surprises in store

While Advertising Age has rooted out 27 Super Bowl advertisers (see chart, right), Fox Network contends viewers are still in for some surprises. Other BBDO clients, such as Cingular and DirecTV, may yet be in the game. Neither has publicly revealed its intentions. DirecTV is part owned by Fox Network's parent, News Corp.

At least one advertiser, though, is determined to have fun. Leave it to Anheuser-Busch to send up last year's proceedings. The St. Louis brewer is considering a commercial aimed at poking fun at last year's bra-popping expose.

All of the big-ring advertisers are back, including PepsiCo's Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay and automakers General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. This time, though, they're in the company of a large number of first-timer or, at least, first-time-in-a-while advertisers.

the virgins

Among the Super Bowl virgins are Ameriquest Mortgage Co., Novartis' Ciba Vision, credit-card giant MBNA and Cosentino's Silestone countertop brand. Fast-feeder McDonald's appears for the first time since 1996. Subway is also taking a spot.

Surprisingly, the dot-com category seems a little underrepresented given its growth prospects this year. Last year Expedia, America Online and Monster.com were dominant advertisers. This year two relatively unknown companies, Careerbuilder.com (see related story, P. 3) and Web-hosting site Godaddy.com fill Fox's logbook . Gameznflix.com was negotiating a spot, but couldn't agree on a price. Texas Instruments has a spot buy in most markets. A :30 is selling for $2.4 million.

As far the pharmaceutical giants, there's a good chance that Levitra, co-promoted by GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer AG, will be back, though the company wouldn't comment.

Some notable absences include Procter & Gamble Co., which promoted its Charmin brand last year, as well as Monster.com and America Online. Also absent are two advertisers who added a more solemn tone last year, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and anti-smoking group American Legacy Foundation.

For updates to chart: AdAge.com QwikFIND aaq23q

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