Reviewing Super Bowl XLI

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I moved from New York to Chicago just over 21 years ago, arriving in the middle of the Chicago Bears' championship season. Along with the rest of the city, I was swept up in the certainty that "our" team was not only headed to the Super Bowl but would win it. And so it did: Bears 46, Patriots 10

Fast-forward a couple of decades. Apart from a thrilling first play, when the Bears returned the Colts' opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, Chicago's offense was mostly as uninspired, with a few exceptions, as the handful of b-to-b spots that aired during the game.

A quick recap of the b-to-b spots during Super Bowl XLI, where a 30-second spot cost a record $2.6 million, and my award choices:

The in-house-developed spot for first-time Super Bowl advertiser infoUSA's's subscription service followed a sales stud through his day. This inelegant execution was panned by critics—"Our ad wasn't supposed to be funny or clever," said infoUSA CEO and founder Vin Gupta—but wins the award for having the clearest call to action: 100 free sales leads.

Sprint's "Connectile Dysfunction," created by Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, a send-up of a drug ad that touted Sprint's, ahem, longer wireless range. Winner of the potent parody award.

FedEx Ground's spot by BBDO New York, in which the boss reminds his employees that they can't assume "ground" means slow. "You can't judge things by their name," he tells Harry, who is hairy, Eileen who leans, Joy who giggles and head-bobbing Bob. Also by BBDO, a spot imagining a company's Moon office and the visit by a FedEx lunar shuttle. Winner of the special effects award.

And the standout: That's right, the Super Bowl bad boy, which in the days before the game made much of all its saucy ads that were rejected by the network for inappropriateness. (You can still find all of them on the home page, as well as a blog by the domain registration company's CEO.)

This year, GoDaddy toyed with its own naughty reputation with an in-house spot. A typical executive walks through the company's unassuming office space. "We keep our operations focused and efficient," he says, reaching a door marked "Marketing." He opens it to reveal a party with scantily-clad dancers, spurting champagne bottles and wet T-shirts. "Everybody wants to work in marketing," he says, a bit embarrassed, as he closes the door.

The bigger question is this: Does the Super Bowl make sense for b-to-b companies?

"It's not necessarily a CPM buy," Andrew Donchin, director of national broadcast at Aegis Group's Carat USA, told Advertising Age, BtoB's sibling title, last week. "If it was, it would scare everybody away."

Companies that pay Super Bowl ad prices need to maximize the opportunity, and that means integration, said Anthony Iaffaldano, director of marketing at Reprise Media, a search engine marketing company.

After getting viewers excited by a TV spot, these advertisers should want them to visit their home pages, Iaffaldano said. "In order for that to be satisfying to the user, you need to reward them," he said. On this basis, he praised both SalesGenie and especially GoDaddy, calling its Web site "a robust experience for users."

According to Reprise Media's Third Annual Search Marketing Scorecard, both GoDaddy and SalesGenie did well, with great coverage across all the search engines. Reprise said that three-quarters of Super Bowl advertisers failed to "integrate any recognizable elements from their TV commercials into their search ads" and that 70% of the landing pages surveyed "didn't have any clear association with the Super Bowl ads that triggered them."

Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business and can be reached at [email protected].

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