Smallbiz/LK1st/mark2nd PRODUCTION PLEASE NOTE SUBHEADS ALSO, LET’S CALL COLUMN SIG “ENTERPRISE” AND NOT SMALL BUSINESS By ALF NUCIFORA A combination of Mardi Gras, the Academy Awards and the Kentucky Derby, the Super Bowl is a once-a-year opportunity for advertisers and ad agencies to create reputations and flaunt their best. It’s gotten to the point where some people stay for the ads and go to the bathroom during the game. But not this year. Rarely has there been so much money spent for so little impact. At a hefty rate card price of $1.6 million for a 30-second commercial, this year’s Super Bowl advertising was a monument to excess with an abundance of questionable taste and painful waste. Movie companies were big spenders in their headlong rush to promote their latest blockbusters. Like some never-ending migraine headache, the Fox network pounded us with incessant promotion for their new season’s cheesy programming. The auto, truck and SUV brands served up the same clich & #233;-driven mush. The rare exception was Oldsmobile, now trying to reposition itself as a contemporary player with some nifty new brands. Probably too little, too late. For the first time, high-tech was everywhere. From Hotjobs to Hotbot, the Web fraternity was all over the screen. The Good Budweiser: I don’t know if it sells beer, but Budweiser advertising is still the funniest and most intelligent advertising to appear on the sports screen. The frogs and lizards still hold up. The Dalmatian spot pulled an approving sigh from both sexes. The “Toilet Paper/Check-Out” and “Catapulting Mouse” spots produced a requisite chuckle for Bud Lite. In a category where it’s hard to stand out, Budweiser performed in an exemplary fashion. Pizza Hut: Donald Trump, Spike Lee and Fran Drescher, quintessential New Yorkers all, helped make the point that, at $9.99, Pizza Hut’s New York Style Pizza is a mouthful and a helluva buy. Point well made. World Wrestling Federation: Gratuitous sex and violence, marvelously portrayed. Hey, that’s what professional wrestling is all about. They captured the spirit, tone and attraction of the spectacle with pinpoint accuracy. VISA: Two clever spots illustrate the perils of writing a check instead of using a VISA check card, one featuring Buckingham Palace guards and the other, a guy locked in a bathroom awaiting the services of a locksmith, while his drop-dead gorgeous female companion waits despondently on the other side. Sex Still Sells: A beautiful vamp sets off fire sprinklers as she munches on Smokey Red Doritos, while pneumatic babes from Victoria’s Secret provide the come-hither as they entice us to watch their upcoming fashion show on the Web. Meanwhile, Jerry Seinfeld performed well for American Express; FedEx gave us an entertaining spot featuring the Stanley Cup; Yahoo! continued its effective campaign illustrating the benefits of working with a great search engine; and Mountain Dew hit the mark with blue-collar Gen-Xers with its tongue in cheek look at “What Snowboarders do in Summer.” The Bad First Union: Why is it that banks consistently deliver misguided and irrelevant advertising that talks to self image as distinct from true customer need? First Union’s over-produced extravaganzas, with Blade Runner motifs and mountain themes, are nothing more than a gigantic waste of the advertiser’s money and the viewer’s time. Apple: A decent exposition of the Y2K problem from Macintosh, but one wonders how many people, particularly those under 50, got the “2001 A Space Odyssey” connection. Australian Tourism: A strange spot from the Aussies. Some expensive schmaltz with kids in different lands “calling Australia home.” It’s the old “I want to buy the world a Coke” theme revisited. But what was the point? Speaking of Coke, once again the beverage giant provided nothing memorable. Expensive, disappointing stuff from Pepsi One, with a misused Cuba Gooding Jr. And uninspiring animation for new Crispy M & Ms.; The Ugly Buy.com had a guy on all fours sniffing a dog’s rear end. No doubt, in their follow-up campaign, they’ll have the dog hiking its leg. Is there no shame? An interesting concept for 7-Up, “The Uns,” was destroyed by people who think trite is funny. A classic example of bad, expensive advertising. Will 7-Up ever get it right? Jon Lovitz for the Yellow Pages was a perfect manifestation of the notion that if you don’t have an idea, hire a celebrity. The hardest part was finding the message amid the waste. And “Just For Feet” this is what happens when production technique runs amok and replaces the idea. There are better ways to promote a brand. And less expensive ones to boot. There it is. Another year of advertising’s purported best. The patient’s got problems. We’re not on life support yet, but unless the ad community recommits to strategy, discipline and treating the consumer with intelligence, we’re headed for the graveyard. Alf Nucifora is an Atlanta-based marketing consultant. He can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com, his Web site www.nucifora.com, or by fax at 770-952-7834.