EVENTS & PROMOTIONS: PROMOTION PRIZE: SUPER BOWL AD: MAIL BOXES ETC. OFFERS SMALL-BUSINESSES FREE AIRTIME

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Mail boxes etc. is offering small businesses a dream of a prize-a 15-second slot inside a 30-second commercial on Super Bowl XXXII.

Under a promotion the packaging marketer kicks off today, owners of businesses with fewer than 20 employees are eligible to enter a contest for that prime ad spot by submitting 100 words or less on why they deserve it.

The winner's message will appear on the big game's broadcast bookended by introductory and closing messages from Mail Boxes Etc.

The winning company also will receive $10,000 in cash.

NOVEL EXPOSURE

"It's an opportunity to be seen on national television during the premier advertising event of the year," said Nancy Mammorella, VP-marketing at Mail Boxes Etc. "Those big beer [Super Bowl time] buyers are going to be disappointed they didn't come up with this idea."

The contest "takes a commercial and turns it into an event," said Rich Badami, exec VP-creative director at agency Kenneth C. Smith Advertising, San Diego, which is handling the promotion. The contest also has the added benefit of helping Mail Boxes Etc. build a database, Ms. Mammorella said.

Promotions for the contest begin as part of Mail Boxes Etc.'s new ad campaign, which drops the testimonial approach the company has used in previous advertising. The promotion itself will be a $4 million-plus effort.

SMALL-BUSINESS ANGLE

The new series of four humorous 15-second spots is tagged, "Making business easier worldwide," and is intended to emphasize the chain's small-business service solutions beyond packing and shipping-such as handling the receipt of packages while a small-business operator is away from the office.

The new effort is set to break today on news, sports and prime-time network TV programming, as well as on national cable. The campaign includes radio ads and point of purchase.

In-store materials for the Super Bowl promotion and entry forms feature a football player. Entries also can be submitted to the Mail Boxes Etc. site on

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