The Super Bowl and the Rise of 'Oddvertising' Some 130 million people are expected to watch Super Bowl XL on Sunday. As always, advertisers are paying big bucks to grab viewers' attention — and some have resorted to making their spots as strange or unpredictable as possible, says author Warren Berger in his book, Advertising Today.

The Super Bowl and the Rise of 'Oddvertising'

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

For viewers who aren't captivated by the game, there are always the commercials. Increasingly, the ads are seen as entertainment in and of themselves. But don't expect to understand all of them. Alongside all the standard celebrity endorsements and straight-ahead product promotions, there will be plenty that are whacky and some that are just plain weird. Absurd commercials seem to be everywhere these days. Take this scene of two elderly grocers standing in shopping carts in the middle of a supermarket.

(Soundbite of commercial for Emerald Nuts)

BLOCK: Emerald Nuts have become known for nutty ads like that one. They'll have a new spot during the game. Warren Berger calls this kind of thing oddvertising. He's been tracking the phenomenon and wrote a chapter on it for his book ADVERTISING TODAY. Thanks for being with us Warren Berger.

Mr. WARREN BERGER (Author, ADVERTISING TODAY): Thanks, Melissa, it's great to be here.

BLOCK: I'm wondering if these ads are appealing to just a certain demographic?

Mr. BERGER: Well, you know, I think they started out gearing them towards young males, the people who watch Conan O'Brien, maybe. But it spread a little further than that now. Now, I think it's kind of gone mainstream. And a lot of commercials now are what I would call oddvertising.

BLOCK: Is there a school of thought in advertising now that if you're just doing a straight ahead product ad, that people just may not be paying attention.

Mr. BERGER: Yeah. I think that's especially true at the Super Bowl. It's almost gosh to do a sales pitch at the Super Bowl, because everybody else is entertaining, and if you try to sell, you're going to be like the bore at the cocktail party. Everybody is just going to run from you.

BLOCK: Well, let's talk about some of the oddvertisements that we might be seeing on Sunday. We mentioned Emerald Nuts will be there.

Mr. BERGER: The one they're going to show on the Super Bowl is going to feature a Druid, and there will also be people with machetes. Somehow all of this is going to end up spelling out Emerald Nuts. The ad itself will seem pretty nuts.

BLOCK: Well, that's high concept. Burger King is also going to be in the lineup for the first time in a long time, and they've been running a series of spots that some people find a little bit creepy. There's a king with is big plastic head. In one of the ads he's in somebody's bed. Then another he's in somebody's car. And lately they've had this king playing in famous NFL teams. So he's getting a pass, he's running down the field in his king costume alongside real NFL players.

Mr. BERGER: And it really looks realistic.

(Soundbite of commercial for Burger King)

Mr. BERGER: Burger King really represents oddvertising to me really well right now, because this king character is just weird. As you said, he wears this weird mask with this kind of frozen, maniacal smile on his face and he never says anything. The king will be making a brief appearance at the game. They're doing a 60-second extravaganza ad in which there are dancers that look very much like the Rockettes, but they are in costumes as pickles and tomatoes and all of the ingredients of a Whopper. They're called the Whopperettes.

(Soundbite of commercial for Burger King)

Mr. BERGER: I guess the king is going to show up briefly somewhere in the chorus line there.

BLOCK: There's another company that's been having a lot of fun with their ads, and that's CareerBuilder.com. Let's listen to one of their spots.

(Soundbite of CareerBuilder ad)

BLOCK: And you see a, you know, a standard office, a lot of Carols, a guy on the phone, and all around him are chimpanzees going berserk.

Mr. BERGER: Yeah, that was a very successful commercial from last year's Super Bowl that is coming back with a new one this year. They actually have a nice deadpan tone. To me, that's one of the hallmarks of good oddvertising, you treat it as if everything is normal.

BLOCK: Warren, let's talk about one last thing here, which is a trend of ads that are sending you away from the television, actually sending you maybe to the internet or to your iPod.

Mr. BERGER: That's an especially big trend this year. The ads are being treated almost as self-contained units of entertainment. They can be downloaded. Some of them are being designed to be watched on video iPods. They're at websites. The Burger King spot can be viewed on Sprint cell phones after the game.

BLOCK: Is there really a market for that, people who want to see these ads in their own free time?

Mr. BERGER: You know, it's a good question. There's definitely more of an interest in advertising as entertainment. There are TV specials now that are, you know, world's funniest ads and people watch them. But on the other hand, you know, to think someone is going to jump up from the couch and run to their computer to find out more information about the commercial, that may be a little bit ambitious. And I think some of this is a little bit of wishful thinking on the advertiser's part.

BLOCK: Warren Berger, it's been good to talk to you. Thanks a lot.

Mr. BERGER: It's great to be here.

BLOCK: Warren Berger is author of the book ADVERTISING TODAY.

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