Can it already be time for another Super Bowl, America's annual bombastic midwinter festival of commercialism? Time flies when you're trying to climb out of a bathtub, as a certain agency company chief executive might say.

Indeed, thanks to Super Bowl XXXVIII on Sunday 1 February, Madison Avenue, still struggling to emerge from its recession, will be getting quite a leg up, as it were, toward that goal. With each 30 seconds of commercial time during the football game going for a record average price of $2.3 million, that means sponsors will be spending almost $14 million to buy the 30 minutes' worth of spots being sold by the CBS-TV network, whose turn it is this year to broadcast the championship showdown.

Speaking of showdowns, once more the Super Bowl is likely to provide fans of advertising with as much enjoyment as the sports fans are anticipating.

For instance, the Super Sunday marketing stalwarts such as Anheuser-Busch, FedEx, PepsiCo and Visa will be returning for another shot at the big prize: a high score in the annual Ad Meter survey taken during the game by the national newspaper USA Today, the results of which are trumpeted on the front page of the paper - the nation's largest in total circulation - the following morning.

The top slots in the survey are usually snagged by spots for Budweiser or Pepsi-Cola because each year those brands' agencies produce commercials overstuffed with sure-fire crowd-pleasing elements such as humour, schmaltz, celebrities, music, special effects and anthropomorphic animals.

Pepsi-Cola's stand-out performance long ago drove its principal rival, Coca-Cola, out of the game because try as it might, the Coca-Cola agencies could never quite figure out how to duplicate Pepsi-Cola's formula for Super Bowl success. That has produced the odd effect of what is arguably America's most famous brand being as absent from America's biggest day for advertising as it is omnipresent the remaining 364 days of the year (Anheuser-Busch keeps its competitors at bay by paying extra to be the exclusive beer advertiser during the game).

This year, there will also be some additional plotlines for ad aficionados to salivate over. Wieden & Kennedy, which surprised many last year when it was added to the AOL agency roster, is premiering its first major campaign for the client in the form of humorous spots featuring the cast of American Chopper, a popular cable TV reality series, endorsing an important new service feature dubbed AOL Top Speed.

Can W&K, known for sports-themed work for marketers such as Nike, ESPN and Powerade, finally come through for a non-sports client - ironically enough, on the biggest sports day of the American calendar?

Another fascinating ad theme of Super Sunday will be the battle of the "ED drugs" - prescription remedies for male erectile dysfunction. The two newest entrants in the field, Cialis and Levitra (seeking to, er, um, grow at the expense of the market leader, Viagra), are both scheduled to run spots. Levitra has already gained notoriety for commercials in which a man's ability to toss a football through a tire hanging from a tree is presented as a metaphor for the drug's benefit (wink, wink).

There's even speculation that Viagra may join the fray with a commercial of its own. Now that certainly would bring new meaning to the term "three-way".