Super Bowl Turning Into Spectacle of Waste for B-List Brands

Last Updated Jan 18, 2010 12:09 PM EST

The Super Bowl was once the summit of advertising achievement: Only the biggest and best could afford to advertise, and consumers expected only the biggest and best commercials to be shown. Half the audience, famously, was more interested in the ads than the game.

But those days may be drawing to an end as prices for Super Bowl ad airtime decline and as the spots fill up not with Dow Jones blue chips but second-rate newcomers and also-rans.

Worse, there's a growing realization among increasingly media-savvy consumers that the Super Bowl is a waste of money for most advertisers. Instead of saying, "Wow, that was entertaining," viewers are now just as likely to react, "They could have done that on YouTube."

This New York Post story has it right: Gone from the Feb. 7 game are Pepsi, General Motors and FedEx, all formerly linchpins of the genre. In their place at Super Bowl XLIV on CBS* will be Dr Pepper, kgb, HomeAway, GoDaddy, Monster.com, Teleflora, Boost Mobile, Emerald Nuts, Pop-Secret, MetroPCS and Cash4Gold. I'm not saying these brands are bad; just that they're not in the same league as Budweiser and Coca-Cola. The association of "Super Bowl" and "waste" appears to be coalescing fastest around Chrysler. The company -- which took tax money in its bankruptcy/bailout -- is advertising the Dodge Charger during the game. Ad Age reports that armchair brand managers are posting online comments indicating their money could be better spent elsewhere. Their point is "proved" by the fact that General Motors, which also took tax money, is sitting out of the big game:

Tom Henderson, a spokesman for GM, said the automaker will not advertise in the Super Bowl or in the upcoming Academy Awards because of cost-cutting measures.

"The time is not right for us," Henderson said. "We are going to focus our resources in other areas."

The market says the same thing. Prices have declined from last year, from as high as $3 million to as low as $2.5 million -- indicating lowered demand.

*Disclosure: CBS owns BNET.