OMD leads Super spenders

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It's past halftime at the Super Bowl, with 60% of the premier marketing venue gobbled up by advertisers, according to advertising executives.

Twenty percent of the game, which will be broadcast Jan. 28, 2001, on CBS, was swallowed by Omnicom Group's Optimum Media Direction, New York, buying largely for clients of sibling creative shop BBDO Worldwide.

Tom McGovern, OMD's senior VP-director of sports marketing, said the media-buying agency spent approximately $50 million for two pre-game sponsorships and 12 -- out of 60 -- positions during the game, as well as some regular-season National Football League positions.

`A FEW GRAY HAIRS'

"I did the buy myself. It gave me a few gray hairs," said Mr. McGovern, who was recently promoted after Larry Novenstern, BBDO's veteran sports marketer in New York, left the agency for Sport Vision, a sports marketing and technology company.

BBDO clients who are expected to advertise during the game include FedEx Corp., Mars Inc., Monster.com, Pepsi-Cola Co. and Visa USA.

In recent years, BBDO clients have taken the lion's share of advertising during the Super Bowl. The agency typically closes the first ad deal for the game; its spending has been seen as a bellwether for overall Super Bowl buys.

An executive close to CBS said overall ad spending on the game is about where it was this time last year.

Starting in fall 1999, ABC witnessed a rush of dot-com business. The Super Bowl had been previously thought to be reserved for big, established marketers.

It remains to be seen what impact the recent dot-com crash will have on Super Bowl XXXV buys.

John Underwood, president-CEO of online branding consultancy ClickThings, New York, recently told Advertising Age he expects a significant drop in spending (AA, Aug. 7). "We had two dot-coms in the Super Bowl in 1999," he said. "Then this year we had about 17, and I expect we'll be back to two next January."

This year, CBS sold title sponsorships to seven of eight pre-game shows. Each title sponsor also bought two to four 30-second spots during the pre-game shows.

LOFTY PROJECTIONS SLICED

Before the dot-com crash, CBS had floated a grand price of $3.2 million per :30. Now, executives said, the price for the next Super Bowl is between $2.1 million and $2.3 million for a :30 -- about the same rate ABC got this time last year.

Most advertisers are taking advantage of CBS' packaging of pre-game and in-game spots, which significantly reduces the price of an in-game commercial. Bcom3 Group's Starcom MediaVest Group has made such a deal, buying a package of in-game positions and pre-game placement for an undisclosed client.

"I have two positions and as time goes on I can make a decision about which one I want," said John Muszynski, chief broadcast investment officer at Starcom, whose arrangement with CBS leaves exact placement open for now. "If we can get an A position in the third quarter, I'd probably want that more than I would a C position in the second."

Meanwhile, debate continues as to whether the mass reach of the Super Bowl is the most effective ad vehicle.

NEW DIRECTION

"The overall trend is going in a different direction," said Bob Brennan, Starcom chief operating officer. "People identify less and less with mass [advertising] and are looking for things that speak directly to them and who they are. [The Super Bowl] is still a great vehicle for flagship brands. But I think differently about it when launching more discreet brands."

"As a marquee event, it commands a pretty high cost per thousand in comparison to other types of TV executions," said Rich Hamilton, CEO of Zenith Media, jointly owned by Cordiant Communications Group and Saatchi & Saatchi. "The debate is whether that premium is worth paying. And that depends on the circumstances that advertisers are in."

Overall, between 70% and 90% of the total regular-season inventory on ABC, CBS and Fox has been sold, executives closed to the networks said, with prices up 10% to 13% over last year.

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