Dress ads in their Sunday best: HD

With 30M high-def TVs in U.S., marketers convert to keep up with the Joneses

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bbulik@crain.com

If you already thought Kevin Federline was over-the-top, wait until you see him in high definition. Nationwide Insurance is planning to run a Super Bowl ad featuring Mr. Federline in HD, and that means what little Britney's ex still has to hide could be revealed in super-crisp broadcast.

He's not alone, of course. A sundry cast of characters-likely to include Budweiser horses, Pepsi cans, Toyota trucks and Snickers bars-all will star in Super Bowl ads shown in HD.

Although a number of HD ads have appeared in the big game in the past few years, an HD bumper crop-7.5 million sets sold last year alone, up 46% from 2005, according to NPD Group-is pushing marketers to shoot or finish their spots in HD. Marketers are looking not only to take advantage of HD's higher resolution and quality but to also avoid being embarrassed by ads that pale next to the competition on an increasing number of HDTVs. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 30 million have been shipped in the U.S.

"As the number of TVs out there grows, clients are more interested in HD-especially for sporting events, and especially the Super Bowl, which is, of course, the big one," said Carole Gall, director-broadcast production at JWT, Detroit.

And even more will be sold in the last week before the big day. A recent CEA study found that almost half of sports fans purchased an HDTV to watch a specific sporting event, and No. 1 on the list was the Super Bowl, at 13%.

Of course, there's still a lingering concern about the cost of filming in HD, though proponents say it's nominal in most cases, adding 10% to 15% or less to the total. "The cost of producing an HD version is so minimal, it's a shame that only now, in 2007, we're talking about a lot of HD ads in the Super Bowl," said David Perry, director-broadcast operations, Saatchi & Saatchi.

The high-end demographics of HD viewers should add extra appeal for marketers. While some 22% of the general population has a household income of $75,000 or more, 41% of HDTV households boast that income level, according to a recent study by Frank N. Magid Associates.

"Look, a good ad is not killed because it's not in HD. But why not play with the technology if you have it?" said Rich Silverstein, co-chairman and co-creative director, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco. "People are buying these giant screens and eating chips and drinking beer. It's nice to have it look good."

contributing: alice z. cuneo
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