OpEd Columns

Imagine no Ads, just Super Philanthropy (Indianapolis Star 1/18/06)

In a stunning, last second announcement of unprecedented social consciousness, ABC announced that it’s complete lineup of advertisers for Super Bowl XL have scrapped their planned commercials, and donated their exorbitant costs of airing a 30-second ad during the game to grass roots social agencies nationwide in dire need of financial support.
Traditionally a staple among Super Bowl advertisers, Annheuser Busch has pulled its ten ads featuring flatulent Clydesdales. Busch will instead launch a minimalist ad campaign the week after the game with the following white text scrolling on a simple black background. “The Busch family has come to the realization that they could make a much larger impact in society by taking the money normally spent in one 30-second Super Bowl spot, and donating it to a homeless center. So that’s what we’ve done. Ten times over.”
“Instead of airing farting horses, we will be feeding and housing 4700 Americans for an entire year,” noted a Busch spokeswoman. “We decided it’s probably not necessary to spend $26 million dollars in five minutes to get Americans to drink beer. Clearly, this alternative is Bud wiser.”
Other Super advertisers have followed suit.
Cingular’s planned Super Bowl spending spree was originally a brand entertainment deal. “Cingular was going to be the official sponsor of the opening coin toss, as well as the Cingular first quarter time of possession statistics, the Cingular red zone efficiency stats, and the highly anticipated Cingular cheerleader cam(s),” a Cingular PR rep explained.
“But we’ve decided to sponsor the YWCA in South Bend, Indiana instead. The federal government slashed their budget by a million dollars recently, and we’d like to help them make it through some tough times.”
GoDaddy.com, an internet domain registrar, chose to cover up their bare breasted ads poking fun at TV censorship. “We’d like to change the name association of GoDaddy with cheap, sleazy bimbos,” commented a GoDaddy spokeswoman. GoDaddy is taking our $2.6 million dollars and giving it to the Asian Women’s Shelter in San Francisco. We’ve decided to help women, not mock them.”
“Imagine the lives we can change by donating the cost of our frivolous 30-second spot to this wonderful non-profit organization that provides safety, food, shelter, advocacy, and other resources to assist women in rebuilding violence-free lives for themselves and their children.”
Countertop manufacturer Cosentino USA took a similar approach. Consentino donated their $2.6 million dollar ad to Youth Outreach and Services in Gainesville, GA, which operates on an annual budget of $120,000 per year. “We’d like to give them funding for the next 20 years,” said an unidentified Consentino executive. “Our ads last year with Dennis Rodman lounging in a bubble bath were very effective. However, we’ve decided to steer away from cross-dressing, ex-NBA freaks and decided to project an image of positive male role models. This extraordinary program reaches troubled and thrown away youth, helping them build successful and productive lives.”
While this consortium of advertisers donates their 58 commercial spots worth $150 million to charity, ABC stands empty-handed. “It seems the ad agencies and the marketing execs decided their companies could benefit more by associating themselves with public service, rather than tossing $2.6 million out the window in 30 seconds,” said a pale-faced ABC sales rep. “It’s too late to find replacement ads at that price. What are we going to air during timeouts?”
Actually, the network has been toiling with two ideas on how to deal with the dead airtime, “I suppose we could analyze the game,” wondered Jake Kelly, executive producer of the seven hour broadcast. “But more than likely we’ll interview the Desperate Housewives cast during the first half, then stage a round of Dancing With The Stars in the north end zone during second half timeouts.”
With the anticipation of 90 million Americans tuning in for the game, the question remains. Why would corporate America gobble up the most expensive commercial airtime on television, then not use it, and donate the funds to charitable organizations?

They wouldn’t.

But just imagine. Wouldn’t that be a truly Super Bowl?

Ted Mandell teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.
Copyright 2006 Ted Mandell

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