Small Biz Aims Big With Super Bowl Ads

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The animated cartoon features an Asian panda bear complaining about the lack of customers for his bamboo-furniture company and considers going out of business. But his wife is told by the "Panda Psychic" to instead get free leads from Salesgenie.com.

Six months later, instead of closing shop, Mr. Panda Bear has expanded his company-- all thanks to those leads.

The commercial, featured during 2008's Super Bowl XLII, got slammed, with some viewers saying it evoked racist remarks and insulted Asians. But the 30-second ad did at least get people talking about the small company, undoubtedly the reason Salesgenie aired it during the Super Bowl.

It's certainly not cheap to advertise during the roughly four-hour game, and there is big competition to get a spot in the first place. Commercial slots, which have been sold out since October, went for roughly $3 million this year.

That's part of the reason people thinking about Super Bowl ads typically think of the major players, including Anheuser-Busch InBev's (Stock Quote: BUD) Budweiser and Bud Lite, PepsiCo's (Stock Quote: PEP) Doritos, Best Buy (Stock Quote: BBY) and even E*Trade Financial (Stock Quote: ETF), with its E*Trade baby commercials.

There is no event comparable to the Super Bowl in terms of reaching a mass market, experts say. Last year, 106.5 million viewers tuned in to the Super Bowl. This year, viewership expectations are up to 110 million people, according to MayoSeitz Media.

There is also no other event in which the advertisements actually become water-cooler chit-chat the next day, which is why advertisers often try to be outrageous and edgy, shooting for humor and shock value.

"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."

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