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ABC liquors up in push for Oscar auds

ABC had two things to say to Oscar advertisers this year: It can hold out until the last minute to unload commercial spots to squeeze a nifty price hike from an imploding economy; and beer ads, long verboten by the upscale Academy, are welcome if deemed creative enough, and, perhaps, if the economy is imploding.

(Spots for movies and feminine hygiene products are apparently still not welcome by the Academy, which vets all ads.)

Anheuser-Bush, with the first Oscar beer ads ever, is showcasing two Budweiser spots, one that had folks rolling in the aisle during the Super Bowl on CBS in January. That male-dominated event, TV’s top-rated draw, can attract 90 million sets of eyeballs. The Oscars, which some call the Super Bowl for women due to the big female demo, is No. 2. More than 46 million viewers tuned in last year.

Besides beer, these events had something else in common this year. In a sluggish ad market, both CBS and ABC were still selling off their remaining inventory a few days before their respective showtimes. Gone was the frenzy of high-flying dot.coms and deep-pocketed Fortune 500 companies cleaning out the cupboard early. This time, the nets has to stick it out to get their asking price.

They hit their numbers. ABC wanted $1.4 million a spot and got it — a 16% increase from $1.2 million in 2000. The Academy Awards were on ABC last year too and will be through at least 2008. “It went slower in terms of how it sold out,” acknowledges one network insider. But in the end, he adds, advertisers clearly see this as a “big, glamorous event and a good chance to reach a huge audience.”

The latest Super Bowl had its dot.com ad roster pared to three from 17. The Oscars, which generally attract fewer ‘Net advertisers, managed to add cash-strapped Yahoo! this year — but lost Revlon. American Express is unveiling its latest Jerry Seinfeld creation and Pepsi will bring on Britney Spears. Also on board are Charles Schwab, who will personally attempt to calm terrified investors/viewers, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, McDonald’s and Kinkos.

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