Ad Touchdown!

It may seem like a humble beginning, but there is nothing humble about a production for an ad being prepared for the Super Bowl.

When CBS News Sunday Morning's Serena Altschul caught up with Eric Hirshberg, creative director at Deutsch Ad Agency, the impact of their 30-second spot was inescapable.

"The Super Bowl is one week from today, and we're still shooting," says Hirshberg. "There's a little pressure... I think we're officially the latest people in America in terms of getting our Super Bowl spots done."

When it comes to Madison Avenue, there is nothing quite like Super Bowl Sunday. It's also the only time, once a year, the entire country becomes ad critics – giving their thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

"It's Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa rolled into one. This is the high holy day for the advertising industry," says Bernice Kanner, author of "The Super Bowl of Advertising."

"This is the cultural moment. This sort of represents what America is all about. First, you have people making dates, going to parties to watch this. It's a very communal -- gathering around the electronic hearth, if you will."

Football may be called a man's game, but more women watch the Super Bowl than the Academy Awards. It's an event that attracts everyone. Forty percent of America watches the big game -- old, young, fans and non-fans. For advertisers, there is no better television audience. Super Bowl Sunday is the one day of the year when more than 130 million Americans actually look forward to the commercials.

The game is the game, but the commercials are the show.

"We have to be something that everyone wants to see," says publicist and creative director Sherry Nemmers. "What's also important is that after you've seen that spot, you really want to know what it was for."

One product being ready to market may represent the most unlikely product to debut in this year's Super Bowl -- toilet paper.

"In the beginning, everyone just sort of laughed at the notion," says Nemmers. "A toilet paper in the Super Bowl? It was like that makes no sense. And then when you thought about it a little bit, it made perfect sense, because everyone watches the Super Bowl. Everyone uses toilet paper. And everyone should use Charmin."

For the first time in 50 years, Charmin is making a major change in its packaging -- taking the image of a baby off its package.

Nemmers says the ad's goal is to be provocative.

Like most ads trying to sell a product, the people at Charmin don't want audiences to think about their commercial, but talk about it.

Nemmers explains, "I think what we care most about is the day after if everyone says, 'Did you see that ad?' And, 'Did you see that ad for Charmin?' And it means something to you. It's something that resonates."

"There is no other time that people talk about advertising, and give you free publicity," says Bob Lachky, brand manager for Anheuser Busch.

It's that water cooler effect, says Lachky, which can deliver the biggest bang -- making a 30-second spot worth its $2.3 million price tag.

Lachky says, "The average person will say, 'That seems like an enormous amount of money. Why would you spend that?' I say, 'Because it works for us.'"

Super Bowl ads have been called the best of the best. It is surprising to realize how many made an impression long beyond their 30 seconds.

"Everything changed in 1984 when Apple ran 'Why 1984 won't be like 1984,'" says Bernice Kanner, author of "The Super Bowl of Advertising." "The spot was so extraordinarily different from anything that had run before. It became a big PR event. And thousands of people, 72,000 people in the first 18 hours, went in to check out Mac. And 100,000 within the first couple of weeks sold, many more than Apple had ever anticipated.

At the end of the game, they're still commercials. And, for Mitsubishi marketing executive Ian Beavis and Deutsch executive Mike Sheldon, that reality is never lost.

"The bottom line is, we're in this business to sell vehicles," says Sheldon. "If we get last place on USA Today's poll, it doesn't really matter. What matters is people get a sense that the Mitsubishi Gallant (is) better than the Toyota Camry or the Honda Accord. And that's the news."

Still, it is the Super Bowl, and the commercials need to have an extra something.

"We're probably producing the first officially unfinished commercial because that commercial does not end on the Super Bowl," says Beavis.

The commercial finishes online.

"That's never been done before," says Sheldon. "The must-have is sell the product, but you know engage the consumer."

There is a lot at stake for Eric Hirshberg, creative director at Deutsch Ad Agency.

"Your clients put a lot of faith in you," he says. "They put a lot of money behind the ideas. It's got to deliver. It's got to deliver."

They do deliver, but everyone will have to wait after the Super Bowl to get the results.
  • Rome Neal

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