While the Baltimore Ravens routed the New York Giants 34-7 Sunday during the Super Bowl, rivals in the business arena tried to keep viewers watching the game - and their ads.
There were even competing advertisers with anti-smoking messages - Marlboro maker Philip Morris and smoking foe The American Legacy Foundation.
More than 30 advertisers bought commercial time during the CBS telecast, paying what CBS insiders said was a record average price of $2.3 million for each half-minute ad. That was $100,000 more than ABC got a year ago when 17 dot-com companies gobbled up 40 percent of the available commercial time.
Only three dot-coms returned this year, and one of them, the online broker E-Trade Group, ran an ad that mourned the passing of other online businesses.
In the commercial, a chimp riding a horse as if through a western ghost town passes the shells of buildings that once housed the mythical TieClasp.com and PimentoLoaf.com and an abandoned sports car with the license plate "Dot Commer." A sock puppet, similar to the mascot of the real-life failed Pets.com, landed at the monkey's feet.
"Invest wisely," the ad said as a close-up showed a tear falling down the chimp's cheek.
Anheuser-Busch was the single biggest advertiser on the program with four minutes of ads. Two of them played off the popular "Whassup" ads for Budweiser that have run for more than a year. In one, Brett, Brad and Chad offered a limp preppy imitation by trading "What are you doing" greetings on the phone. In another ad, an alien who just got back from Earth delivers the "Whassup" line perfectly to his space pals.
Pepsi-Cola tweaked its "Joy of Cola" theme to make it "Joy of Pepsi." In one of its ads, one-time GOP presidential contender Bob Dole spoofs his Viagra pitches to attest that the "little blue friend" that he turns to for his vitality is a can of Pepsi. Diet Dr Pepper also ran an ad spoofing the musical "Riverdance."
In the credit card wars, Visa showed a woman who bought a vacuum cleaner and used it to get rid of the slovenly guy at her house and a man who watched the rabbits multiply while awaiting approval for his check at the pet store.
MasterCard also ran a pair of new ads in its "Priceless" campaign, including one that touted a contest for a vacation for 10 old friends.
Mobile phone companies competed for attention. Verizon Wireless showed a couple using their phones to communicate at a noisy rock concert.
Cingular Wireless ran three ads including one that showed a disabled painter who draws with a brush attached to his head to show the company's commitment to assisting self-expression.
In the anti-smoking arena, Philip Morris' ad showed happy, active teens who said they knew enough not to smoke, part of its "Think. Don't Smoke" campaign.
The Legacy group, which is financed by the tobacco industry's $206 billion settlement with the states over health costs, ran two ads late in the fourth quarter: one narrated by a man talking with an electronic larynx and disputing whether the industry has changed, the other featuring a widower whose wife died at 46 due to smoking.
Skip Wollenberg, Associated Press, The Nando Times. January 28, 2001
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