For years, television networks have vetoed advocacy ads created by the likes of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and MoveOn.org from airing in the Super Bowl.
The reason? The ads were designed to raise controversy by featuring risque acts with vegetables (see PETA's 2009 rejected Super Bowl ad here) or by making a political statement, in MoveOn.org's case.
But this year's game will prove to be unusual on a few advertising fronts. Perhaps most remarkably, the Feb. 7 telecast on CBS will feature a 30-second commercial created by Focus on the Family, a non-profit Christian group that's taken a pro-life stance and states a belief in marriage as a partnership between the opposite sexes, Advertising Age reports.
The commercial represents the group's first ever Super Bowl ad and will feature college football star Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam. The Tebows will "lift up a meaningful message about family and life," according to a press release about the ad from Focus on the Family.
So why is a broadcaster accepting an advocacy ad after years of rejecting others in favor of commercials touting beers and snack foods? The ad doesn't take a stance against any issue and sidesteps a polarizing message, AdAge reports.
But perhaps it's no coincidence that Super Bowl XLIV may mark one of the few years when the price for a 30-second commercial has declined. With the recession prompting some marketers to sit out this year's game, the price of a 30-second spot is selling for $2.5 million to $2.8 million, down from $3 million in 2009.
With long-time Super Bowl advertisers such as PepsiCo and General Motors sitting on the sidelines this year, that's opening up the game to a few unusual advertisers. Take, for instance, Time Warner's TruTV, the renamed cable network Court TV, which bought a 30-second ad that will air in the second quarter. Typically the broadcast networks resist selling airtime to other networks, seeking to use the telecast as a platform to promote its own shows.
Still, if Focus on the Family wanted to get the most bang for its buck, it may have wanted to borrow a page from PETA's playbook. By creating a provocative ad that was rejected, PETA not only spared itself millions in advertising fees but gained a tsunami of free publicity from the stunt.
As for Focus on the Family, it says all of the money for airing the 30-second spot was donated by a few "friends" and won't be tapping into its ministry's general fund.
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