What if the Super Bowl were just an uninterrupted football game -- the New York Giants and the New England Patriots grappling on the gridiron -- presented commercial-free for all the hard-core sports purists out there?
Of course, it would still be the highest-stakes football game of the year, but without a single advertising break for beer, chips, cars, gadgets or movies, would it be a major milestone in popular culture, a ratings juggernaut, a national holiday?
“No way,” said Bob Horowitz, president of JUMA Entertainment, which produced the recent CBS special “The Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials,” now in its 11th year. “The ratings wouldn’t just decrease, they’d drastically decrease. It would be disastrous.”
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Even in years like this one when it’s a hotly contested match-up, millions of people will readily admit they watch the four-hour-plus spectacle only for the ads. That’s good news for marketers like Anheuser-Busch InBev, which has bought more than four minutes of extremely expensive air time on Sunday for its beer brands, and supermodel Adriana Lima, who’ll appear with her ample cleavage in two separate commercials.
It’s easy to see why A-list companies and their up-and-coming rivals want to be in that kind of spotlight. Last year’s game on Fox drew 111 million viewers, making it the most-watched TV program in history. It’s a four-quadrant event, as they say in the flick business, gathering every demographic group that ever buys any product or service.
But why, when TV viewers so readily and diligently use their DVRs to skip ads, are the commercials just as big a draw as Eli Manning?
“Because the commercials aren’t commercials,” Horowitz said, “they’re short-form entertainment.”
So there you have it, Show Trackers, but it’s really up to you to be the judges on Super Bowl Sunday.
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-- T.L. Stanley
Photo: Eli Manning of the Super Bowl-bound New York Giants during a playoff game. Photo credit: Darron Cummings / Associated Press