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Small Shops Often Aim for Edge in Bowl Ads

"Super Bowl advertising is an event," says Lonny Strum, of the Voorhees, N.J.-based Strum Consulting Group. "Even if you're a medium-size company and advertising, it actually gives you the opportunity to appear as a mega-company."

Smaller companies that are willing to invest and have a commercial "worthy of post-game chatter" could see the expensive commercial as "a platform to become known at the highest possible level," Strum says.

As a result, there have been smaller companies that have gambled on entering the big time via the Bowl -- a gamble that paid off for some, such as HomeAway, an online vacation-home marketplace. For others, including Salesgenie, even drawing negative responses and controversy still got people talking.

"A lot of these smaller companies want exposure very quickly, so [there's] nothing like the Super Bowl to do that," acknowledges Brian Steinberg, TV editor for Advertising Age, a trade publication for marketing professionals.

But he named the Salesgenie commercial among the worst Super Bowl commercial gambles. Steinberg said it alienated Asians and other minorities.

Salesgenie "thought they were funny," Steinberg says, but the humor didn't work for everyone. "The Super Bowl is a very broad-based audience, and you reach all kinds of niche groups as part of the mass."

Go Daddy, a provider of Web domain names and hosting packages that has become a Super Bowl ad veteran, was a virtual unknown before its foray into Super Bowl advertising. It has become notorious for using saucy ads to its advantage.

Go Daddy's first Super Bowl ad was in 2005, but its inaugural spot was yanked from the air by Fox (NWS) right before its second viewing. (This year Fox turned away completely an ad for a conservative-themed merchandise company called Jesus Hates Obama that thought it had a $2.3 million deal for a commercial to air in the 30-second spot right before the kickoff.)

The Go Daddy ads, which feature IndyCar racecar driver Danica Patrick and others, often in revealing clothes, have been a source of controversy, none of which has stopped CEO and founder Bob Parsons from submitting equally racy Super Bowl ads for approval. Some have been flat-out denied.

The company acknowledges that it has "built mainstream awareness in large part with edgy Super Bowl campaigns featuring sexy Go Daddy Girls," according to a Jan. 11 press release. Parsons promises the latest Bowl ad campaign will be equally edgy, with the newest "Go Daddy Girl" being The Biggest Loser's Jillian Michaels.

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