Soft landing

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Last year, a silly dot-com (sorry if that's redundant) paid ABC $3 million for a Super Bowl spot. Last week, word was that CBS was offering a spot late in next Sunday's game for $1.5 million. That's a good deal for an advertiser. And it is a welcome sign that advertising's premier event has returned from lunacy to normalcy.

Admittedly, irrational exuberance has its appeal: It was good sport to make fun of foolhardy dot-coms and their naive venture capitalists as they wasted millions of dollars last January on ill-conceived Super Bowl plays.

But when the amateurs took over the field of Super Bowl advertisers last year, the professionals ran for the sidelines. Advertisers that sat out the overpriced game discovered they could get along just fine without the Super Bowl.

It was fair to ask last year whether the Super Bowl had priced itself out of the game. The answer is "no." Courtesy of the slumping economy and ad market, the average price of Super Bowl ads this year is flat or even down a bit from 2000's $2.1 million.

With reality returning to Super Bowl pricing, great brands are coming back onto the field. Any advertiser that grabs a late-game spot for $1.5 million can have a Super Bowl party like it's 1999-the last time sponsors saw a price that low.

This is not the greatest news for CBS (which has disputed reports about slumping prices). But it's good news for the future of advertising's big event. Blue-chip advertisers and CBS held an off-screen scrimmage to create fair pricing for value received. The amateur bowl is over. The Super Bowl is back.

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