COMMERCIALS scored 52 times at the Superdome yesterday as the Washington Redskins defeated the New Orleans Saints, 27-10.
The time of screen possession by commercials was 10:10 in the first half, and 10:50 in the second half, for a total of 21 minutes out of the 60 minutes allotted for football.
Miller Beer had six scoring drives, and Chevrolet also had six to tie for most aggressive products of the afternoon. The U.S. Army was out in strength with four big commercials, including the climactic last commercial of the game.
The competition for the remaining dollars of day-after-Christmas viewers was always emotional, and there were many standout examples of total commitment and determination, among them Bell Telephone's "It's Ingenious!!" campaign, and the extremely familiar Lowenbrau theme, "Here's to good friends."
Noxzema Medicated Shave Cream, in a surprise move, scored big in the second half after fielding two players, a man and a woman, in locker room towels.
The Redskins, who are play-off bound, found victory by executing the fundamentals, not being overconfident, and keeping their concentration.
The Sponsors, who are Superbowl bound (where the ad rate is more than a half-million dollars a minute), also executed the fundamentals, successfully making it hard to concentrate on football.
We're in the Superdome with Tom Brookshier, who says he had a great Christmas, and Wayne Walker, his companion sportscaster. It's 4 o'clock Sunday afternoon and lots of "great football minds will be concentrating on this 60 minutes of football you're going to see," Brookshier says.
The kickoff goes to New Orleans, which gets a first down before kicking back to the Redskins' Mike Nelms, who watches the ball roll to a stop.
Interception by Dick Butkus for Lite Beer! The mean former linebacker is sitting at a roaring fire with former Oakland Raiders Coach John Madden. He and the rest of the Miller team just want to wish you a merry Christmas.
Lite Beer has scored first, but loses momentum to a thrillingly energetic pitch for Ford's Escort, "the number one car line in America . . . the car nine out of 10 would buy again!"
During an interruption in the commercials, the Washington Redskins score a touchdown.
Canon's NP300F computer strikes back immediately, followed by Sunoco's credit cards.
The Redskins' Mike Nelms is really banged at the 34-yard line, but flags are down! The hang time on the kick was 4.48 seconds, Brookshier explains, and "the 'Skins came down with blood in their eye!"
"Come on along I'll take you to, the lullaby of Broadway . . ." That's Milford Plaza Hotel in New York, "the lullaby of Broadway." But one has barely checked in before "Sakes alive! A Mazda B2000 Sundowner! 38 highway, 27 city! Hey, Mazda's got a truck for just $5,795!"
Joe Washington is caught behind the line of scrimmage. Joe Theismann throws a pass into the turf. Punter Jeff Hayes has just made "another great kick" when suddenly an enormous lineman bursts onto the screen.
"Deacon's my name and bowling's my game!"
It's Deacon Jones, the great defensive end. He's joined by former unforgettable lineman Bubba Smith, baseball's diminutive Billy Martin, celebrity doormat Rodney Dangerfield and a host of others. This team is from Miller Lite, again coached by John Madden, a great competitor who promises, "I'm going to break this tie!"
Reluctantly we leave these sports greats for the Redskins offense, but not for long. We are returned again to The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, followed by Denny's, which has great steaks.
Six minutes are gone in the first quarter, and Theismann has two completions for eight throws. Oops! Now he's two for nine, victim of a "one-man blitz," Brookshier says.
The Redskins kick away. "Don't forget the NCAA games upcoming . . . best team they've ever had!" Now an NFL update from New York, with the camera returning just in time to see a Guido Merkens pass fall uncaught. If it'd been a short pass, we'd have missed it. But then, we wouldn't have had our Update.
The Saints recover a Joe Washington fumble! New Orleans gets the ball, and there is football for several minutes in a row. As Brookie says, "The crowd's gonna tell you they like this drive!"
What drive? Miller Lite is back, with a bunch of jacks bragging about lumber. "It was Miller Lite that kept me going when I was cutting trees in the great Sahara forest! Wait a minute, there aren't any trees in the Sahara--it's a desert! Yeah, it is now!"
"Ingenious! It's Bell that makes you say, it's ingenious! It's genuine Bell! It's Bell that makes life easy every single day! It's ingenious! It's genuine Bell! It's ingenious! It's ingenious, genuine Bell!"
This crowd still hasn't settled down, says Brookie. Looks from here like the crowd has been sitting on its hands waiting for that ingenious Bell ad to be over before resuming the play of football.
So ends the first quarter, with the score:
Only tough Ford "four-by-fours" end up at the top of the heap, and if you're interested in driving up a pile of rocks, this must be the truck for you. Theismann tries to take the ball into the end zone himself, but drops it somewhere in the vicinity of Mexico. It's Carlos Somebody for Miller Lite! Aye aye aye aye, come to the window! De bes' thing about this beer is, it's cold! First Jersey Securities, come grow with us! New Year's Eve on CBS Sports, the Peach Bowl!
"Are there teams of destiny?" asks Brookshier. "Yes there are, and I'm talking about the New Orleans Saints."
By halftime everyone is breathless, right along with Brookshier. The nation rests its weary bones after watching the blitzers and being the blitzees. The Nielsen ratings showed that in 1979, 1.8 billion people watched the NFL. To all viewers, a steady stream of advertisements is nothing new, and in between them they have come to rely on a remarkable barrage of arcane sports data. But although television's fast-talking sports announcers never forget which college a pass receiver went to or how fast he can run 40 yards or which side an assistant coach parts his hair on, they are curiously circumspect about commercials.
Does an NFL game periodically stop cold in deference to a commercial message? Apparently it does, but this is a fact known only to ticket holders in the stadiums. What these ticket holders say is that when you go to a game, there is a man near the sidelines who is very important and very anonymous. This fellow at the sidelines holds up his cap, or stands with his hand on his shoulder, to signify that the network is delivering an ad and play should not resume. Quarterbacks, refs, linemen, coaches and fans observe this mysterious figure's signals and obey them.
This fellow may be the best-kept secret of pro football on TV. There is constant notation and discussion of each of the official timeouts and their effect on the momentum of the game. But when was the last time an announcer said, "Well, that commercial break sure enabled the big fullback to get his breath back"?
Some things, apparently, the TV fans just don't need to know.
Andre' Champagne kicks off the second half with a 27-second play in which two attractive people toast each other before a roaring fire. Miller Lite has used roaring fires in the first half with some success, and apparently this has not gone unnoticed in the Andre' Champagne locker room.
Chevrolet then takes the field for 28 seconds, pitching its 10.9 percent interest rate. That somewhat dry approach, however, is quickly smothered by the familiar strains of "Here's to good friends, tonight is kind of special." But Chevrolet has another advertisement held in reserve, and so is able to cover Lowenbrau's theme song at both ends.
Up against cars and beer, Noxzema Medicated Shave Cream sends in an entirely different play, which immediatately wins wide attention. Two towel-clothed players, a man and a woman, appear in a bathroom. "Are you in a bad mood?" she asks cooingly. "On no . . ." "You use Noxzema -- I can tell when you kiss me." "Ummmm." "I hate talking in the morning," she says, implying that play will continue in the bedroom, courtesy of Noxzema.
The CBS promo for Pittsburgh vs. SMU basketball pales by comparison, and yields to yet another Chevrolet commercial, for its Citations, Celebrities and Cavalier cars.
Apparently sensing an advantage, Lowenbrau comes back immediately with "Here's to good friends, tonight is kind of special" play.
After an interruption for football, Chevrolet runs a standard car ad, followed by the Army, which sends in Rangers in helicopters. CBS then pitches its Peach Bowl coverage and "60 Minutes" program.
A team of local Washington ads then seizes the moment -- Rosenthal Chevrolet, Giant Food's beef department, Channel 9's Glenn Brenner and Sonny Jurgensen. In response, CBS reminds everyone that Chevrolet and the wineries of Ernest and Julia Gallo bring us the NFL.
Suddenly McDonald's blitzes its linebackers--a whole backfield full of testimonials from regular folks who like hamburgers. One of them truly says, "I can't imagine a world without McDonald's!"
"Do you always work your friends this hard?"
"Have you still got enough strength to lift a Lowenbrau?"
"I'll use two hands!"
Yes, Lowenbrau has a game plan, all right: Repeat "Here's to good friends" until it's pouring out your ears.
But the team on Madison Avenue knowns when to switch gears, and the next play is a pretty little girl in pigtails doing her alphabet.
"A, B, C, D, E, F. . . . E. F. Hutton."
In between the commercials, the Redskins are still playing the Saints. About this point a strange thing happens to Don Warren, an end who appears on the replay to have simply caught a pass. But what has actually happened, as Tom Brookshier explains it, is that Warren "just got in there and died, and became a vacuum."
After this strange event, CBS tells us about the upcoming Cotton Bowl, Mennen tells us about its Speed Stick, and Phillips Petroleum sneaks in a puppy--the puppy is being photgraphed with its flash cubes.
Hitachi, a world leader in technology, enters the game, followed by Toyota, which sends in a handsome, red-headed fellow who drives a red truck and then jumps up and down in slow motion in the manner of Vernon Dean.
CBS Sports pushes its upcoming basketball championships coverage, then another Merry Christmas from Miller beer -- a sled, this time -- followed by the U.S. Army, with the last word.
Clearly, the most valuable player in the commercial game between Washington and New Orleans yesterday was John Madden, former coach of the Oakland Raiders. He appeared in several beer commercials during that contest, while serving as a sportscaster for the Dallas-Philadelphia game, which was held simultaneously.