Tuesday, January 30, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Some winners, some losers in Super Bowl ads

USA Today

Two cliches proved their basis in truth this weekend: The Super Bowl is always boring. And we watch anyway, for the ads.

Funny guy Cedric's amorous pratfall was rated the best Super Bowl ad spot by USA Today’s focus group.

TV image via Associated Press

This year’s winning ad in the 13th annual USA Today Ad Meter: the amorous adventures, gone awry, of smooth-talking funny guy Cedric, whose Bud Light explodes all over his dream date.

The Ad Meter focus group surveyed the 55 ads broadcast during the Super Bowl. The game, with its U.S. audience of 144 million, is widely viewed on Madison Avenue as the Super Bowl of advertising. Advertisers paid as much as $2.3 million for each 30-second segment.

Behind Bud, E-Trade’s bald security guard with the Bruce Lee-like daydreams rated second. And Visa ranked third with a spot featuring multiplying rabbits in a pet shop.

But the Ad Meter crowd cheered time after time for Anheuser-Busch, which had four of the top 10 ads. The brewer literally spent the past year refining its fleet of seven Super Bowl spots.

But Budweiser’s cute ads don’t necessarily convert beer drinkers into Bud drinkers. "They’d have to change their beer," said financial analyst Jeanne Vaughn, 34, who is a big fan of Anheuser-Busch ads but hasn’t hoisted a Bud since college. "I don’t like the taste." But she does like Bud’s newest spokesjokester, Cedric. So, apparently, does the rest of America.

"He made the spot," said August Busch IV, group vice president of marketing. He said the company reviewed 20 spots before narrowing to seven and giving Cedric the key slot as the game’s first commercial.

Cedric the Entertainer (that’s his stage name — his real name is Cedric Kyles) is a stand-up comic, singer and dancer who was a star in Spike Lee’s comedic performance film from last year, "The Original Kings of Comedy." He also stars on "The Steve Harvey Show," WB’s highest-rated comedy.

But bigger things could be ahead for him.

The Cedric ad features a portly guy with a Barry White-like voice who is cool on the couch with his date but does a victory dance when he’s alone in the kitchen getting a couple of beers. Unfortunately, that bumpy dance converts his bottle of Bud Light into a dangerous weapon.

Winning trends

Visual jokes. On Super Bowl Sunday, advertisers know it can be hard to be heard above the hoopla. That’s why visual jokes win big. Like Otto, the little dog who gets huge after cleaning out his master’s fridge. Or the gazillions of squirrels running at Pamplona, Spain, for EDS.

Animal kingdom. We are a nation of animal lovers. Especially during commercial break time on Super Bowl Sunday. Visa’s rabbits were a hit. Albert Middleton, 61, a real estate appraiser, said Visa’s multiplying rabbit ad is "another indication of just how much we like animals in commercials."

Losing trends

Don’t do that. The "anti-ads" that advised viewers not to smoke — or to drink responsibly — generally didn’t score well. Among the ads were two anti-smoking ads for the American Legacy Foundation and a responsible-drinking spot, featuring ’N Sync, for Anheuser-Busch.

B-list celebs. This was hardly the Super Bowl of A-list celebrities in ads. The only celeb close to A-list other than ’N Sync was Ali Landry, who returned for the third time in a Doritos spot. It’s all B-list from there.

First-timers fail. Only one of 10 first-time Super Bowl advertisers cracked the top 10. Volkswagen, with three ads, was a bust.

Films flop. Trailers for upcoming films — no matter how big — don’t seem to translate very well on Super Bowl Sunday. Even the ad for MGM’s upcoming "Hannibal" didn’t cause a blip.

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