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Here are two ironclad predictions about Super Bowl XXXII Jan. 25.

First, one team will win.

Second, with nearly $80 million being spent for network ad time during next Sunday's event (averaging $1.3 million per 30-second message), plus upward of a million dollars each for the production of many of the spots, nearly all that money will have been wasted.

Continuing a 14-year trend, broadcast advertising during the Super Bowl by and large will be an extravagant folly. Entertainment for entertainment's sake only. What will be forgotten is advertising's primary purpose: creating a selling message that stays with you long after the last touchdown.

Sure, there will be spectacular production values, celebrities by the boatload, dazzling special effects and beer ads that tickle Gen X-ers and pre-puberty teens but leave the rest of us to scratch our heads.


Debates will rage over who had the best spot. The day after the game, there will be as much give and take about the advertising as about the game itself. TV commentators, newspaper and magazine columnists, advertising gurus and just plain folks will be debating who won the "Advertising Super Bowl." Spots will be ranked -- the best and the worst. Pity the loser.

Advertising on the Super Bowl has degenerated into a popularity contest. Lost in the battle for share of fun is winning a share of mind. Also lost is a fundamental objective: Create memorably unexpected advertising that also sells brilliantly.

Too many marketers focus solely on the first part of that objective -- fresh, unexpected creative -- totally ignoring the second part -- selling. Hours after the lights are shut off at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, most advertising on the Super Bowl will be as hard to recall as yesterday's headlines.

Think about it: Can you name five unforgettable ads from last year's game? Three? One?

The current frenzy over Super Bowl advertising began with a desire for breakthrough work and one blockbuster spot that revolutionized advertising to this day: Apple Computer's "1984." That commercial demonstrated to marketers how advertising to one of the largest worldwide audiences in a single TV event could be leveraged to make a global impact statement. It positioned Apple's brand image for all time. It was the inspiration for "advertising as an event."


I always have believed advertising must be charming, engaging, provocative, intriguing or funny -- whatever it takes to reach people. It is the price of entry.

But in desperately trying to follow in Apple's footsteps, too many advertisers and their agencies have lost sight of the business they are in -- which is the creation of sales messages that stay with you long after the last hot dog has been swallowed, the last beer downed.

Instead, advertisers are swept up into an ego-driven "can you top this?" mentality. Some, in fact, squander their entire budget on this once-a-year event , only to be forgotten by the time the next advertiser's spot airs.

What we are left with is a very expensive fireworks display. Everyone looks; everyone "oohs" and "aahs." But the sizzle fizzles quickly.

Which leads to another prediction: Savvy advertisers will soon choose to do less advertising on the Super Bowl. This is an idea that will continue to grow as long as the connection between the game and its impact on sales continues to deteriorate.

There are alternatives to the Super Bowl entertainment derby. Last year, Bozell Worldwide created a special Super Bowl strategy for our "Milk Mustache" campaign, running a page ad in USA Today that featured the quarterbacks from both Super Bowl teams, Brett Favre and Drew Bledsoe.

This became a news event in itself. It was the first time both quarterbacks had been featured in an ad. The morning after the game we ran a second ad featuring Brett Favre, the winning quarterback.


Because of this original creative idea and the inventive use of print media, our client, National Fluid Milk Processors, enjoyed a coup. For less than $100,000, we created our own special event that generated its own press and TV coverage -- in effect, free media. Why spend a million when you achieve the same result for a tenth that cost?

There are ways to be imaginative and entertaining without losing sight of selling. Wise advertisers achieve both.

Mr. Schulberg is vice chairman-chief creative officer, Bozell Worldwide, New York. No Bozell Worldwide clients are network advertisers this year on the Super Bowl.

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