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The Marketing Eye: The Super Bowl Picture for Films Becomes More Muddied

By ChrisFaile

January 12th, 2004

With the Super Bowl now only three weeks away, Advertising Age has come out with its list of those companies that have bought ad time. Do we have a better idea of who will be on? Not really, as there looks to have been some steps backwards for CBS, as the article reports that “some large advertisers either dropped out or cut 60-second spots down to 30 seconds.

Since our last article on November 24, it was said that more than 80 percent of the slots have been filled; the current number stands at 54, out of 62 (87 percent). The average cost for a 30-second ad has already decreased to $2.25 million from its then-stated “between $2.3 and $2.4 million” cost.

Still, there’s no doubting the appeal of the game, as ad prices jumped 7% to a new high. As Ray Warren, the managing director of Omnicom Group's OMD, is quoted as saying, "The Super Bowl is bigger than television…The game is a national holiday. It's the only place to put 100 million people in front of a commercial."

So what’s the latest on the films will be running Super Bowl ads? breaks it down by studio:

Columbia Pictures: The studio is confirmed to have bought two spots already, with Advertising Age stating that the likely films to be featured are “Spider-Man II” and “50 First Dates.” We were told by our sources in November that the next installment of the “Spider-Man” franchise was a lock, but the choice of “50 First Dates” mystifies us, even though those most closely watching the game would be a good fit with star Adam Sandler’s demographics. “Hellboy,” which the director earlier said would get an ad at the event, is missing; perhaps they’ve secured a spot pre- or post-game, which makes more sense for the film. In our earlier report, several sources said the film advertising during the Super Bowl was “low,” so we may be talking semantics here. Low risk, high reward might be the motto for “Hellboy.”

Touchstone Pictures: The Mouse House’s Touchstone division looks to have decreased its order from two spots to one. They had earlier said that it would likely be for “The Alamo,” which Advertising Age also has down. This is a good move by the studio, as the best possibilities on both Touchstone and Walt Disney Pictures don’t come out until the fall.

Universal Pictures: They’ve reserved two spots for the Bowl, and there are three possibilities listed there— “Van Helsing” (which we have been told is a lock to appear), “The Chronicles of Riddick,” and “The Bourne Supremacy.” Because of its higher cost, we’ll give the edge to “Riddick” for the latter spot. We were earlier told that “Dawn of the Dead” would be a possibility, but that now looks unlikely to happen because it may be a tad too intense for a portion of the game’s audience.

Warner Bros.: I sense a trend of twos. WB has bought two advertisements for the game as well, with the studio unset as to which five films they will feature. Of the studios listed, we’ve been told they are the most likely to swoop in for another spot should the placement be good enough and the cost low enough. Advertising Age reports that the possibilities at this point include “Starsky & Hutch,” “Scooby Doo II,” “Catwoman,” “Troy” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” I don’t think the first two would be a good match for the game, although it would be a powerful way for “Hutch” to finally begin its campaign. I’d give the best odds to “Troy” and “Catwoman.”

Of the above list, I’m most amazed that 20th Century Fox, which was targeting a purchase for “The Day After Tomorrow,” is not listed. But there is still a great deal to sort out between the 8 spots left (Will some of the studios playing chicken?) and the already-purchased ad slots that have not yet been nailed down to a specific film. This is nothing new from past years, but there seem to be a larger percentage of films not yet locked in. The ads that will be shown are delivered to CBS by the Tuesday before the game (January 27) so that its network affiliates have a copy of the spots…so we still have time.

If we get indications that any of the above films are further confirmed or receive further word on ad buys, look for us to update this page. As we get closer to the game, other articles around films advertising during the Super Bowl will also appear.