With a captive audience, (an overwhelming 80 million people will tune in at some point of the game) advertisers are prepared to pay top dollar - around $2.1m per 30-second spot. But this year, instead of eager anticipation, the mood of advertisers was one of apprehension.
Just a week-and-a-half prior to the game on 3 February, Fox had sold 90 per cent of the available 30-second units, but there were five or six slots still open - almost unheard of. It was reported that discounting, down to as little as $1.5m, took place to entice the unsure.
There are several reasons for this lack of enthusiasm on the part of advertisers, namely the struggling economy, competition from another event - the Winter Olympic Games from 8 to 24 February and the sober mood of the nation post 11 September. It is the latter which has caused creatives the most anxiety. As they struggle to decipher the mood of the nation and how best to respond, the age-old question arises, does advertising lead or follow? Should creative concepts be more serious, emotional, sensitive in tone? Should they mimic the current dominant patriotic fervour or would this be regarded as tasteless? Or, should advertising try to lay the foundations for recovery, in which humour, particularly, can play a large part?
At the time of going to press, just days before the event, agency creatives were as keen to find out how their rivals would respond as we were. What we hope is that agencies and clients manage to strike a delicate balance and avoid 'playing it safe' with conservative, meat-and-potatoes, ultimately forgettable advertising.