But between the plays, when commercials are king and often more entertaining than the game capitalism still reigns, and Madison Avenue still has its dynasties. Anheuser-Busch, who brought us the once-riveting Bud Bowl, has bought 10 of CBS' $2.3 million 30-second spots. Pepsi will be all over the place, as will FedEx and Visa. EDS, who last year gave us the "cat herders" treat, is back with a running-of-the-squirrels Pamplona thing. And Bob Dole is hawking well, it's sort of a surprise, which we won't spoil in case the game's a stinker.
There has been one NFL-style changing of the guard from last year the dearth of dot-coms. Gone from this year's lineup are Britannica.com, Lifeminders.com, OurBeginning.com, Pets.com and 10 other pretenders; this year there are only three: E*Trade (the monkey returns), Hotjobs.com and Monster.com. The lineup itself is a tech bellwether: One dot-com for dumping your worthless stock options and two to help you find a new job.
So the big boys are back in force. And in a buyer's market: Thanks to the burst tech bubble, the cost of a 30-second spot is up only $100,000 this year, compared to last year's half-million jump, and some reports have it that CBS was still looking for takers as late as Friday. (For movie companies, the price was still a little rich. Only MGM, with "Hannibal," Universal, with "The Mummy Returns," and Columbia, with "A Knight's Tale," have bought game-time spots (one each) and Paramount is running its "Tomb Raider" ads during the cheaper pre-game (annoying blather) and post-game (Survivor II) time slots. Noticeable event-movie absence: Disney's "Pearl Harbor.")
Thus, many analysts are hopeful that with the ad game's old-line clients back dominating the industry's biggest dance, this year's game-within-the-game will feature some quality old-time spots. Are we back in the advertising-as-art glory years of the '80s, when Mean Joe Greene tossed towels and Ridley Scott introduced the MacIntosh? That, like a repeat of last year's nail-biting Rams-Titans finish or even Bud's fad-making "Wassup" spots may be too much to hope for. But at least we won't be wondering this Super Sunday what AutoTrader.com was thinking in putting on a $2 million cartoon. (Though we may miss the dot-com zaniness of things like Cyberian Outpost's flying gerbils.)
And if Ad Bowl XXXV is a snoozer, here's who to blame: the ad wizards at Omnicom's BBDO New York. Between its clients Pepsi, Frito Lay, Pizza Hut and FedEx, the agency is populating nearly 30 percent of the game-time ad space all by itself.
Now that's the makings of a true sports dynasty.