By Brad Dorfman
CINCINNATI (Reuters) – A heated playoff is taking place in Cincinnati to decide who gets a coveted spot in the Super Bowl, but the losing Bengals and other professional football teams are not part of the competition.
This playoff is among eight brands owned by consumer products maker Procter & Gamble Co. to snag the company’s first-ever spot on the widely watched National Football League championship game telecast.
The battle is noteworthy because Cincinnati-based P&G, one of the world’s largest advertisers, has been conspicuous in its absence from the annual parade of pitches by major companies to what is the largest viewing audience of the year.
P&G, the maker of Tide laundry detergent, Old Spice deodorant and about 300 other products, had annually decided it can more effectively spend its marketing dollars than on the Super Bowl, where last year a 30-second spot cost $2.2 million.
But this year the Super Bowl XXXVIII is being broadcast by CBS, which is owned by Viacom Inc., with which P&G has a wide-ranging marketing agreement. The decision to run a spot during the Super Bowl came from discussions with Viacom, P&G Chief Marketing Officer Jim Stengel said.
“The power of the Super Bowl would be not so much the spot… it’s just what it has done to the creative spirit internally,” Stengel said in an interview with Reuters.
Stengel declined to say how much P&G will pay for its ad.
P&G started a contest to see which brand’s team could come up with the best spot to run during the super Bowl. Twenty-seven applied and were whittled to eight finalists, each of which will produce a commercial. Stengel, P&G Chairman and Chief Executive A.G. Lafley and two others will chose which brand gets the coveted spot.
The finalists are Old Spice, Pringles potato chips, Crest Whitestrips and Crest Night Effects tooth whitening products, Prilosec heartburn medication, Charmin toilet paper and Mr. Clean and Swiffer cleaning products.
“What that’s done is for eight teams at P&G, it’s elevated the level of the work and the creative and the attention,” Stengel said. “I got eight brands with better advertising because of the Super Bowl event.”
Stengel uses the pronoun “her” whenever talking about the average P&G customer, which is typically a woman. But that should not preclude the company from advertising during the Super Bowl, which is, after all, a football game, Stengel said.
“It’s got a great audience with women, too,” Stengel said. “That’s the beauty of it. It’s one of the few mass events left.”
Stengel has made the competition an event at P&G. Next week he will hold a luncheon for all the finalist teams at the stadium where the Bengals — who have won only one game so far this season and aren’t likely to make the Super Bowl — play.
Stengel also expects all eight of the finalists spots to reach the air even though only one will be shown during the game.
“My guess is you’ll see a lot of really great P&G spots” the day after the game, Stengel said.
P&G shares were down 21 cents at $95.78.