The streets and businesses of Lodi were looking unusually quiet on Sunday afternoon as the last game of the football season, Super Bowl XXXVIII, was grabbing the attention of the football-craving masses. That, and the Super Bowl's super commercials.
With the price of an ad soaring from $1.3 million in 1998 up to $2.3 million for certain 30-second spots this year, many Super bowl viewers were tuning in for the commercial show as well as the big game.
At kickoff time, just a few customers were taking advantage of the dozen television sets of John DeNigris' Movie City Restaurant in downtown Lodi. DeNigris sat in a booth and wondered out loud about the huge advertisement gamble. He stopped talking as the first Bud Light commercial, featuring a "trained" dog, garnered a good bit of laughter in the restaurant. However, his mouth literally hung open during a well-filmed commercial touting the sleek and racy new Ford GT.
"It's amazing when you think about it - virtually everything we use is marketed in some form or another. It makes you appreciate seeing a well-done ad like that," DeNigris said.
"I'm getting one," he joked.
But the joking is a huge portion of the advertising matter. Is the joking and high-power advertising of the Super Bowl effective, or is it just about name recognition for the big name brands who already have big names?
Sitting around the bar at Stogies Cigar Lounge on Pine Street, a group of "regulars" were enjoying several activities at once. There were, of course, big cigars being puffed on, beer being consumed, a dice game being played, and, in an almost equal amount - the Super Bowl and the super commercials were being scrutinized.
Amid the cheers for each team, and some talk of bets and the outcome of the game, there was an occasional "SSSHHHHH" hissed out when the commercials would come on.
Stogies Bartender Jeff Johnston acted as the unofficial group spokesman.
"We're into the game, but we're also really into the commercials," he said. "I think (percentage wise) we're about 60/40 in favor of watching the commercials and laughing our butts off."
Johnston asked the others which commercial they all agreed was best so far, and most agreed that the Bud Light commercial featuring the dog "trained to retrieve a beer" was tops. That was before the Budweiser Clydesdale commercial that offered a donkey attempting to make the Clydesdale team had them laughing - and also before a Sierra Mist commercial about a kilt-wearing bagpipe-playing man cooling himself - had them roaring with laughter.
Again, the question was raised: "Are the commercials effective? Are they worth the hefty sums of money the advertisers are paying?
"I think it's a waste. It's not going to make me buy something just because it was advertised during the Super Bowl. I just want a good laugh," Kat Sheffeld said as she watched the action.
Sheffeld's husband, Lance, heard his wife's comments and couldn't help but chime in: "You could do a lot more good in the world with that money."