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Super Bowl

Will FedEx TV Ads Ever Return to the Super Bowl?

Company Back at Big Game, But Not the Way You Might Think

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A scene from 'Desert Island,' a FedEx commercial spoofing Tom Hanks' 'Castaway' in the 2003 Super Bowl
A scene from 'Desert Island,' a FedEx commercial spoofing Tom Hanks' 'Castaway' in the 2003 Super Bowl

The recession that clobbered businesses in 2008 and 2009 also drove at least a few veteran Super Bowl advertisers from the Big Game. Some of those, such as General Motors and PepsiCo's beverages, have returned. But FedEx, which had run 19 Super Bowl different commercials since 1989, opted out in 2009 and has stayed out.

The Memphis, Tenn., shipper cited the poor economy when it chose to sit out the 2009 event. Now it says its criteria for a decision to return are private.

In a statement provided to Advertising Age, FedEx Director-Advertising Steve Pacheco said that although "the Super Bowl has been a fantastic venue for FedEx to grow its brand recognition over the years, we will continue to evaluate each year if it makes sense for us to advertise in the game. Our process for determining our advertising buys is proprietary."

Instead of running a spot in the Super Bowl this year, FedEx is participating via lower-key ad avenues. Working with its creative and media agencies – Omnicom Group's BBDO and OMD -- the company is sponsoring the Shazam app's Super Bowl tie-up. As many as one-third of this year's spots will be enabled for Shazam, which will let viewers rank the commercials, view ones from the past, look up football stats and more.

As prevalent as Shazam may be, sponsoring its Super Bowl activity is still a far cry from running a TV commercial in the game, where FedEx used to really ... deliver.

Many viewers consider its 2003 "Desert Island" spot, a spoof on the Tom Hanks movie "Cast Away," one of the best Super Bowl ads. In 2006, FedEx offered a Super Bowl spot showing a hapless caveman attempting to deliver a stick via pterodactyl, then being fired because he didn't use FedEx. And in its 2008 Super Bowl outing, FedEx ran an ad showing a company using advanced carrier pigeons -- equipped with night-vision goggles and GPS -- and getting distressed when the birds proved less reliable than FedEx.

The caveman who needed FedEx in a 2006 Super Bowl commercial
The caveman who needed FedEx in a 2006 Super Bowl commercial

In recent years, FedEx has been placing less ad money into traditional media, according to data from Kantar. In 2008, it spent about $117.1 million on traditional media (including about $78.2 million for broadcast TV) and internet display advertising, Kantar said. For the first 10 months of 2011, FedEx spent about $73.5 million, with about $48 million of that earmarked for broadcast.

"I can't share any numbers, but we are definitely placing more emphasis on nontraditional advertising," said Carla Boyd, a FedEx spokeswoman. If that continues, perhaps FedEx's Super Bowl TV ads have gone the way of the dinosaurs they once featured.

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