Super Bowl ads upbeat, but can't ignore economy

Sun Feb 1, 2009 11:38pm EST
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By Paul Thomasch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When it came to advertising in Super Bowl XLIII, it seemed a spoonful of sugar helped the messages go down.

TV commercials that played best during NBC's broadcast of the National Football League championship game -- including ones from PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch InBev and E*Trade Financial Corp -- relied on an upbeat mix of laughs, sentimentality and special effects to push products to an audience fretting over their paychecks amid a deepening recession.

Among the commercials that won the highest praise from advertising experts on Sunday: A spot for Pedigree pet foods that featured rhinos, boars, ostriches and their hard-luck owners; and a Pepsi commercial set to Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" that centered around classic clips of the singer-songwriter and new shots of hip hop musician

Ads that received the biggest laughs, according to experts, included a Bud Light spot with late night talk show host Conan O'Brien and a commercial for Hulu, the video site owned by NBC and News Corp, starring Alec Baldwin.

Always the biggest advertising event of the year, the Super Bowl broadcast took on added importance this time for companies willing to shell out up to $3 million for a 30-second spot.

Advertising budgets are under pressure, sales across industries are slowing and consumers facing job cuts are in little mood to spend money on anything other than necessities.

Ad rates for the Super Bowl are always eye-popping, far above what is paid for any other TV event, partly because it draws around 95 million U.S. viewers.

Ads during the Academy Awards, another major advertising event which pulled about 32 million U.S. viewers last year, run about $1.8 million for a 30-second spot.   Continued...

<p>U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the field prior to the start of the NFL's Super Bowl XLIII football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals in Tampa, Florida, February 1, 2009. REUTERS/Steve Nesius</p>