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Intel sacks Super Bowl ads

Less than a week before kickoff, Intel yanks the Pentium III ads, even though the network says the company is still on the hook for air time.

Less than a week before kickoff, Intel has pulled its ads from the Super Bowl XXXIII lineup, saying it prefers to wait to air the Pentium III commercials, even though the network says the company is still on the hook for air time.

Intel informed Fox Sports yesterday that the short tradition of half-time commercials featuring the processor giant's bunny people and mystery spoofs has come to an end, the parties confirmed.

The Super Bowl is traditionally one of the most watched events of the year, prompting advertisers to debut costly and creative ad extravaganzas. For example, this year Apple Computer is unveiling an ad featuring HAL from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Intel itself has dominated the commercial breaks in the past few years with its "bunny people" dancing to classic disco anthems or comic vignettes starring actor/comedian Steve Martin.

But this year, the company determined that there was too much of a time lag between the event and the launch of the Pentium III later in the quarter, a company spokesperson said.

"We wanted to wait until closer to when the actual product launches," said Joanne O'Brien, an Intel spokesperson, who said that the company opted to pull out rather than swap the Pentium III commercial with a promo for another product, such as the recently introduced mobile Pentium II and Celeron chips.

"At this point, we're focusing behind the Pentium III, and we continue to do that," she said, declining to elaborate on the creative or financial details of the planned ads.

However, if Fox cannot find another advertiser to pick up the two thirty-second spots, Intel is still responsible for filling the 60 seconds of air time it ordered, and remains responsible for the cost of the ads.

"They may say they pulled out, but they're still on the hook," for the cost of the ads, said Vince Wladika, a spokesman for Fox. "They're committed to the two spots, unless we're able to move the ads."

Although it is not unusual for advertisers to pull ads, it rarely happens this close to the event, Wladika said. "We're very encouraged in our dealings with Fox," said Intel's O'Brien.

Fox sold out all 58 ad units for the game, at an average cost of $1.6 million per thirty second spot. The Intel ads still count as sold whether or not the company decides to run the ads, he said.

"I don't know if we'll be able to find [another advertiser]," he said. "It's not really our problem. We don't have to worry about it."