Greg Cote

Super Bowl TV ads reach record cost ... but will the angry Clydesdale catch Betty White?

Danny DeVito portrays a living M&M in an ad you’ll see during Sunday’s Super Bowl because, well, because why not!? Marketers are paying more than $5 million per 30-second spot to capture the attention of more than 110 million viewers.
Danny DeVito portrays a living M&M in an ad you’ll see during Sunday’s Super Bowl because, well, because why not!? Marketers are paying more than $5 million per 30-second spot to capture the attention of more than 110 million viewers. AP

Super Bowl With a Smirk returns for our second of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game.

The teams in the Super Bowl change every year — well, OK, not the Patriots, but the other team — but what never changes is the ever-escalating cost of those much ballyhooed TV commercials that run during the game.

The ads are now more popular than the game itself, according to advertising executives and nobody else on earth. Thirty-second ads during Sunday’s games will net NBC a record average of $5.2 million each, or roughly $173,000 per second. (The time it took you to say “roughly $173,000 per second” just cost about $700,000).

Most of the ads, as usual, are expected to be sentimental feelgood spots involving some version of a forlorn donkey in a straw hat, dancing babies or Danny DeVito portraying an M&M.

There is a reason why Super Bowl advertising is seen as increasingly valuable.

“So much of media is fragmenting into smaller and smaller audiences,” Tim Calkins, marketing professor at Kellogg School of Management, told the news site “If you want to reach a lot of people, really the only way you can do it is on the Super Bowl. It has a lovely combination of a big audience and a group of people that want to listen to the advertising.”

(Who says “lovely combination”? But I digress...)

Smirk won’t play spoiler and ruin the surprise for you, but I can tell you after screening all of this year’s SB ads that my favorite is one particularly unusual film noir in which a menacingly angry Budweiser Clydesdale is at full trot and gaining on a hobbling, terrified Betty White.

▪ It was like summer in Minneapolis Tuesday as the temperature reached 20 degrees. Visiting reporters are being transported from their hotels to daily interviews on the backs of wooly mammoths.

▪ The “Super Bowl Experience,” a massive interactive “fan village” and theme park, opened at Minneapolis Convention Center, allowing visitors to kick field goals, measure their vertical leap, take selfies with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and more. Outside the block-long hall there is an eerily realistic, life-sized ice sculpture of several people that, sadly, turned out to be a family of visiting Eagles fans who had frozen to death on the walk from their hotel.

▪ Veterans groups are expected to demonstrate outside Sunday’s game over the NFL’s refusal to accept a Super Bowl program ad from AMVETS that read, “Please stand for the National Anthem.” Remember when animal rights groups used to picket over Mike Vick’s fighting dogs? Roger Goodell calls those “the good old days.”

▪ Eagles and Patriots players conducted media interviews Tuesday in Bloomington at the Mall of America’s Southeast Court and North Atrium, respectively. However several offensive linemen from each team were distracted for several hours and missed the session after wandering into the mall’s massive food court.

▪ Smirk is surprised this hasn’t gotten more attention, but President Donald Trump — close friends with Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady — quietly signed an executive order Tuesday mandating that Nick Foles pull a hamstring during practice.

▪’s analytics software played computer simulations of Sunday’s game 50,000 times and found the Patriots won 60.7 percent of the time by an average score of 27.6 to 23.0. Vegas immediately offered a prop bet on the odds this would be the first Super Bowl final score that includes a fraction of a point.

▪ Gronk Update: Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski reportedly is “on pace” to play Sunday, although he is yet to be cleared from concussion protocol. Gronkowski was told to skip Tuesday’s media session so as not to be taxed by the demands of challenging inquiries such as, “How you feeling, Gronk?”

▪ Security is heightened throughout Minneapolis this week as NFL officials crack down on terrorist threats, counterfeit merchandise and media interviews with brain-injury experts.

▪ Super Bowl rings are made by a Minneapolis-based company, Jostens. Amazingly, the championship ring has maintained its mystique despite the fact the third-string long snapper who naps during games gets one.

▪ An enterprising columnist in town for the big game and seeking out an “offbeat” story on ice fishing found that 46 rival columnists had beaten him to the frozen lake and fallen screaming through collapsed ice as Minnesotans brayed laughter.

▪ Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Tired of the same ol’ boring party dishes? Delight your guests by serving Indonesian barbecued bat and the Mexican delicacy ant larvae.

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