Amid a TV world of 10-story beer bottles, tropical islands and summer blizzards, Spokane viewers will watch a series of more sobering commercials on Super Bowl Sunday.
A Seattle ad agency has sponsored a public service campaign in the Inland and Pacific Northwest from Jan. 23 to 29 in an attempt to counter a blitz of TV beer commercials that inundate the National Football League championship game. The commercials ask friends, family and co-workers of pregnant women to share responsibility for fetal alcohol syndrome.
“Campaigns usually focus on the woman and that she shouldn’t drink while pregnant,” said Dave Sharp, senior vice president of CF2GS Marketing Communications.
“This victimizes the woman and points the finger only at her.” He noted that CF2GS’s approach was the only one in the country to target the social support system of pregnant women.
Husbands, boyfriends, bosses and neighbors can all encourage women to avoid alcohol during pregnancy, Sharp said. And there’s no better time to reach them than when they reach for a beer on Super Bowl Sunday.
Ad slots during the Super Bowl, however, are multimillion-dollar marketing productions of corporate behemoths such as Budweiser, Nike, McDonald’s and Pepsi. Super Bowl ad space averages $1 million for 30 seconds of commercial time this year.
How can a 37-employee ad agency compete?
“It’s a David against Goliath battle,” said Sharp.
CF2GS, formerly Christiansen, Fritsch, Giersdorf, Grant & Sperry Inc., is sponsoring the ads in conjunction with the Washington Department of Health and Social Services.
“We can’t possibly outspend them, but we can possibly outthink them,” Sharp said. He hopes the ads will raise awareness of fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition resulting in mental and physical deficiency in babies whose mothers consumed alcohol when pregnant.
The agency could not afford to buy national slots on ABC during the game, so ads run every day this week and on Super Bowl Sunday before and after the game.
CF2GS - which footed the $110,000 bill for buying TV slots could only afford to buy ad space in Spokane, Seattle, Wenatchee, Tri-Cities and Portland. In Spokane, at least 20 ads are running each day this week. The ads are spread among KXLY, KREM, KHQ and KAYU.
In the past year, the Washington Department of Health and Social Services has earmarked $30,000 for production of the ads. CF2GS has donated $50,000 in services to the campaign since 1993, Sharp said.
Anheuser-Busch’s flagship “Bud Bowl” commercials, by contrast, cost more than $15 million and were filmed in Miami on a man-made floating island.
Sharp knows commercial competition from brewers is fierce. But stretching a number of public service announcements throughout an entire year of TV programming is not as effective as saturating the most widely watched week of TV, he said.
“Given our limited budget, Super Bowl week is when we could get most bang for our buck,” Sharp said. “We knew we were going to have to buy smart.”
He hopes the ads will encourage people to “step over borders” and talk to pregnant women about fetal alcohol syndrome.
“Getting people to talk to someone who’s pregnant and drinking is a really big step. For now, we just want to raise awareness of fetal alcohol syndrome.”
Although Anheuser-Busch has no commercials about fetal alcohol syndrome, the company contributes an undisclosed amount of money to foundations that research the syndrome.
Budweiser will also promote its “know when to say when” campaign against driving while intoxicated. The 30-second, post-game ads will make up one-tenth of Anheuser-Busch’s total Super Bowl Sunday ad time.
In addition to the fetal alcohol syndrome ads, CF2GS is sponsoring commercials all week aimed at getting parents to talk to their children about alcohol.
“My 6-year-old can name five brands of beer … but she can’t name the past three presidents,” Sharp said. “I thought I’d have a talk with my kids about alcohol when they were 15. Wrong. Five years old is about the right time.”