Marketers agree Super Bowl bucks were well spent

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Marketers who shelled out $2.4 million for a slot among some rather tepid Super Bowl spots said the buy paid off handsomely-both in pure audience numbers and traffic to their Web sites.

"We get the reach you can't get with any other program," said Chris Carroll, senior VP-marketing for Subway's Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust. "Yes, you pay a higher CPM, but if you're launching something, it made sense to do it because of the sheer reach and presence in consumers' minds."

Subway used the game to promote the national launch of its toasted-sub-sandwich line, and Mr. Carroll added that advertising in the Super Bowl is "not much different than our other media planning. It's just a bigger roll of the dice if it doesn't work or if your ads suck."

Because of the Janet Jackson halftime incident in 2004 and a general feeling that last year's commercials were less clever and more sophomoric than usual (see the flatulent horse or crotch-biting dog), this year's spots were heavily scrutinized.

good and bad

The first in-game spot from McDonald's in almost 10 years, for instance, generated a lot of talk value, both good and bad. The spot featured a couple who discovered a french fry with a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln and included a Web address, lincolnfry.com.

"I wouldn't be honest if I did say some viewers and customers didn't like the ad, just as some viewers and customers liked the ad very, very much," said Bill Lamar, senior VP-chief marketing officer for McDonald's USA. "From a viral-marketing standpoint it has exceeded our expectations with the Lincoln Fry cult that is starting to build."

By Feb. 9, the viral site created specifically for the promotion had generated several hundred hits and $100,000 in bids for the fry on the Yahoo auction that ended Feb. 12.

McDonald's also is advertising on the Academy Awards, but Mr. Lamar contends that, "nothing compares" to the big game. "You'll have Academy Award parties but you'll have 100 times as many Super Bowl parties. It's my plan to be in the Super Bowl next year."

talking points

For a ubiquitous brand like Pepsi, the mass appeal of the game is a no-brainer, but Pepsi-Cola North America called the game a success also on its platform for talk value. "There's only a handful of TV events where you can still reach a mass market in one place," said a spokesman.

Diamond Walnut's Emerald Nuts bet the farm on its first national Super Bowl spot and was nuts about the payoff. The spot ranked No. 9 in USA Today's top 10 spots, and it led on TiVo. In addition, the brand's Web site, emeraldnuts.com, saw an astounding surge: 24,308 unique visitors compared with an average of 1,183 visits on its previous busiest day in October 2004. "We never had a day like that," said Sandra McBride, VP-marketing.

Of course, there's also the occasional newsmaker who gains publicity simply by having an ad-good, bad or indifferent-and this year it was GoDaddy.com. The Web-domain-registration company featured a parody of censorship hearings in which a bosomy company rep loses a strap on her tank top.

"There was a particular blond cheerleader who showed far more skin than our GoDaddy spokesperson," said Warren Adelman, chief operating officer of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company. "We think the ultimate irony is that we created a lighthearted parody of censorship and that parody in itself was censored."

contributing: ad age reporters

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