SBJ/December 18 - 24, 2006/This Weeks News

Super Bowl sales on track for CBS, but is the ‘ad meter’ effect scaring off some advertisers?

CBS’s Super Bowl ad sales are solid this year, tracking similar to ABC’s performance last year.

But network executives and ad buyers are beginning to wonder if the growth of Super Bowl ad rates are being stifled by USA Today’s Super Bowl ad meter. They point to the newspaper’s influential ad rating as one reason why the Super Bowl isn’t experiencing the same bump in rates as the regular season and playoffs.

“I struggle with the ad meter sometimes,” said one ad buyer who asked not to be identified because a client is considering buying into the game. “The NFL and the networks should try to get together to figure this out. Marketers don’t want to be embarrassed.”

CBS has virtually sold out the first half of the Feb. 4 game, with spots available in the second half, mainly in the fourth quarter.

Ad rates translate into $2.6 million for 30-second spots in prime positions and $2 million for late in the game, according to ad buyers. Those figures, and a $2.4 million average rate, are similar to the haul networks picked up in the last three Super Bowls.

By comparison, both Fox and CBS say their conference championship games are nearly sold out, bringing in as much as $900,000 per 30-second spot.

“We find more value out of the championship games,” said one ad buyer who decided not to place a Super Bowl spot this year. “If you buy both games, you’ll wind up with a Super Bowl-like rating at about half the cost.”

Conference championships generally earn a low- to mid-20 Nielsen rating, while the Super Bowl draws a low-40 rating.

John Bogusz, CBS’s executive vice president of sports sales, is trying to convince gun-shy advertisers on the reach of the Super Bowl. “The Super Bowl’s more than double the ad rate [for the championship game],” he said. “But it’s close to double the rating.”

Bogusz is happy with CBS’s haul so far, which is seeing a lot of activity in several categories. “All the usual suspects are still there,” he said.

That includes Anheuser-Busch, the exclusive beer advertiser and the largest spender on the game, and GM, which bought a sponsorship to the postgame show. Pepsi will sponsor the halftime show, which is sold by the league and will feature Prince.

Pizza Hut and General Motors have stepped up to sponsor two of the pregame show’s 4 1/2 hours.

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