NEW YORK - Betty White plays football, babies talk about "milkaholics" and a house made of Bud Light cans falls slowly apart. It must be the Super Bowl -- or at least the advertising showcase that entertains amid the game action.
But the game between the Saints and the Colts was so exciting this year, it might have taken some attention away from the ads, said one ad exec.
"It's very, very difficult to be entertaining in a place like the Super Bowl and have a connection to your brand," said Laura Ries, president of marketing consulting firm Ries & Ries outside Atlanta.
The commercials from such advertisers as Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola got off to a funny start Sunday night on CBS.
But not every commercial was strictly humorous. Automaker Toyota aired several ads before and after the game to reassure worried owners after its recalls connected with accelerator problems.
A commercial by conservative Christian group Focus on the Family hinted at a serious subject, although it, too, had a punch line. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother talk about her difficult pregnancy with him -- implying an antiabortion message, because she had been advised to have an abortion for medical reasons -- but ended with Tebow tackling his mom and saying the family must be "tough."
But the one that might really have surprised people was a promo for CBS' "Late Show." The punch line was from Jay Leno, whose NBC show will again square off with David Letterman in the fall.
Letterman, sitting on a couch with Oprah Winfrey, says "This is the worst Super Bowl party ever." Leno replies that Letterman's "just saying that because I'm here."