Ading up the ads

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It would be a typical Sunday, filled with the usual chores of tidying up after the Lizard of Fun’s Saturday night exploits, except for one thing: It’s the Super Bowl.

A few minutes before game time, the Lizard of Fun emerges like a groundhog seeking sunlight from an enormous bowl of lime-flavored nacho chips. "Is it time? I don’t want to miss a single moment."

"I didn’t know you were such a football fan," I say, adjusting the rabbit ears on the TV.

"Who said anything about sports?" says the Lizard. "I’m watching it for the commercials."

"Isn’t that like saying you read Penthouse for the articles?" I ask, helping myself to the chips.

But the Lizard remains adamant. "Ever since the legendary battle between the Budweiser frogs and the Budweiser lizards, it’s been my sworn duty to monitor the Super Bowl ads. I’m keeping score my own way."

The Lizard reaches into the chip bowl and pulls out a salsa-splattered score sheet.

"You see, I rate each commercial on several factors, including its intangible ability to make me forget the football game," it explains. "When it’s all over, I take the number of points per commercial, add in the winning football team’s score, divide them by the results of the New Hampshire polls, subtract the number of bottles of beer still on the wall, and come up with a secret formula."

"You’re going to have to walk me through this one," I say.

"Shhhh, the game’s starting," says the Lizard, snapping open a Bud. It pays little attention to the kickoff, instead writing furiously on its score sheet as it lounges in its La-Z-Boy. But once the first commercial break begins, it laser-beams its focus onto the television screen, one of an estimated 140 million viewers who are tuned in to the exact same cultural experience.

When it comes up for air – that is, when the game comes back on – it looks at me with glazed-donut eyes. "Wow," it says dreamily. "And that’s just the beginning."

By the glitzy half-time show, I’m genuinely worried that the Lizard has succumbed to some sort of football-induced testosterone poisoning. I peek over its shoulder to see what it’s once again scribbling on its score sheet.

The Lizard has been awarding commercials points, from one to five. Here’s how the e-Trade singing chimp fits in to its criteria: Creative use of sponsor products: 0. Creative lack of use of sponsor products: 5. Number of appearances by Regis Philbin: 0. Use of animals: 5. ("Does Regis Philbin fit into this category?" is scribbled in the margin.) Overall brilliance: 5. Overall stupidity: 5. Complete lack of football references: 5.

It’s also listed its favorite commercials, which include the Mountain Dew cheetah, the Bud Light tiger and the Budweiser Clydesdale foal.

"Clearly," says the Lizard, "There’s more animal commercials than ever. Which can only mean one thing."

"What? That animal actors are going to need to form a union?"

"That too. But not what I immediately had in mind. I’m thinking that it’s time to start getting into advertising myself."

"You’re going to get a job acting in commercials?"

The Lizard gives me one of its "you’ve-been-watching-too-much-TV-and-it’s-rotting-your-brain" looks. "Noooo. I’m going to advertise me. The Super Bowl telecast is where the biggest products are launched and the hottest trends are given global recognition. It’s the ad spot to own, baby."

"Which means?"

"Simple. I’m going to get me a spot or two and let everyone know about the Lizard of Fun. The product. The brand. The identity. The lifestyle. I’ll be like Martha Stewart: Not just an individual, but an omnimedia."

I picture lizard-shaped hot-air balloons floating high over the heads of confused football fans. "You do realize that these Super Bowl commercials cost $2.2 million bucks for just 30 seconds of airtime, don’t you?"

The Lizard’s jaw drops. "Really?"

"Yup. Any idea how you’d cover that?"

Furrowing its brow, the Lizard says, "Well, if I already was an omnimedia, I’d have the dough. But since I’m not, I need Plan B. Which calls for my secret formula."

The Lizard makes some calculations, based on the chimp ad: 25 points + Rams: 23 / Gore 51 percent - 17 Buds = 77.1.

"And what’s that supposed to mean?" I ask.

"It’s my chances of winning on Regis’ money show, assuming I get through on the contest entry line sometime between now and tomorrow."

"So, let me get this straight. You’d win a million bucks, and then blow it all on 15 seconds of Super Bowl advertising? What for? You don’t have a product, you don’t have an e-business, and after the game, you won’t have a million bucks anymore, either."

The Lizard gives me its million-dollar grin. "But I’ll have brand recognition, which is much, much better. Besides, like Regis says, who really wants to be a millionaire?"

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