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Uncommon Indicator: Super Bowl Ad Spending

Super Bowl

There has been a bit of hand wringing of late over the fact that 30-second television spots during this year's Super Bowl broadcast on Feb. 7 on CBS are going for only around $2.75 million. Last year, see, during Super Bowl XLIII, those ads cost $3 million. Before you glance up expecting to see a piece of sky shrieking down upon you, let's look a little closer at the numbers.

For one thing, as The New York Times notes today, CBS has said that it has almost sold out all of the available ad time, which would mean it has done so much earlier than NBC did for last year's game. You could argue that this is due to the shaving of $250, 000 off the price tag, or you could see that as a sign of enthusiasm on the part of the ad buyers. Similarly, while many business behemoths—including FedEx, General Motors, and Pepsi—are taking a pass this year, many other Super Bowl newbies and occasional buyers are in. Among those fresh-faced pitchers are Boost Mobile, Motorola, Electronic Arts, Dockers, and—what's this?—the Census Bureau. Hey, if the Census Bureau is dropping over 2.5 mil on a half-minute spot, how bad can things be?

Moreover, the Times claims that while NBC did sell some of its air time last year for as much as $3 million, those rates tended to drop with the Dow. Of course, these types of buys are always risky. What if you purchase time in the fourth quarter and it's a lopsided route by then? That's been known to happen. But while we are on the subject of uncommon economic indicators, let's explore an uncommon predictor of the quality of this year's game. Some dude has gone back through history to match Super Bowls against the corresponding United States President (so it's SB I vs. Washington) in something he calls the America Bowl. And as of this moment, Super Bowl XLIV vs. President No. 44 looks too close to call.