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Mon, Feb 06, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Super Bowl Sunday a big day for ads

AFP , WASHINGTON

For sports junkies the world over, commercial breaks mean it's time to roll off the couch to grab another beer or boil the kettle.

Not in the US, on Super Bowl Sunday, an annual pageant of patriotism and commercialism canonizing athletes and US corporations.

Big game ads are as eagerly anticipated as the football itself, as companies kick-off multi-million dollar product launches with cheeky and macho spots.

Cavorting Spice Girls and Britney Spears, tear jerking parables to the American dream, divorced Duchess Sarah Ferguson, and international man of mystery Austin Powers have all had 30 seconds of Super Bowl fame since 1999.

"Audiences for Super Bowls have become as interested in the 30 minutes of ads as they are in the NFL championship game," John Antil, professor of business administration at the University of Delaware said.

Adverts are a nuisance in most places, but a survey in the US found 58 percent of viewers would rather miss part of the Super Bowl than the ad breaks.

Sunday's National Football League (NFL) showpiece, this year in its 40th incarnation between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Detroit, was not merely the pinnacle of the hard hitting sport's season.

Top brands like Budweiser, Gillette, Ford, Pizza Hut and Sprint used the event as a multi-million dollar shop window.

P. Diddy and Jackie Chan starred for Pepsi, while Leonard Nimoy boldly goes where no man has gone before with the first Super Bowl spot for Aleve, a painkiller.

These are difficult days for advertising, with network television viewership challenged by proliferating cable and satellite stations and the Internet.

"It makes the Super Bowl even more important than it has ever been. The Super Bowl is the only thing left that really reaches the mass audience," Antil said.

Official figures put Super Bowl viewership at close to 90 million -- but since many fans watch at parties and in bars, the true figure could touch 130 million -- or nearly one in two Americans.

In a sign of the popularity of Super Bowl adverts, the NFL's cable network will this year feature 30 minute reruns of Super Bowl commercials back to back after the game.

In a departure from ads aimed at frat boy football fans, advertisers are set to temper the male bravado, and woo women -- who form just less than half of Super Bowl viewers.

Unilever has bought a spot for one of its praised commercials for "Dove" products which dumped bone-thin models for women of all shapes and sizes.

Budweiser ads, branded by some feminist groups as sexist, will reportedly cater more to female beer drinkers.

The National Organization for Women has lambasted past Super Bowl advertisements, charging they overwhelmingly target men, and make women the butt of jokes.

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