CBS Says Sorry to Dockers for Pantsless Deja Vu During Ad Spots


For most Super Bowl viewers, the airing of back-to-back commercials featuring men in their skivvies was nothing more than an amusing coincidence, a bit of "Did that just happen? " deja vu. But for the marketers who paid millions of dollars for the airtime, it wasn't so funny.

The marketers in question are CareerBuilder, whose ad imagined an office where "Casual Friday" means wearing nothing but undergarments, and Dockers, which offered a battalion of men in briefs marching and singing about pantslessness.

According to Advertising Age, CBS (CBS), which broadcast the Super Bowl, is giving Dockers three free 30-second commercial spots during the NCAA men's basketball championships to make up for the mistake of scheduling two visually-similar spots in adjacent slots. The network hasn't publicly confirmed the make-good, but presumably the reason Dockers got a freebie and CareerBuilder didn't was that its commercial ran second. Evidently, when viewers saw the CareerBuilder spot, the partial-nudity thing was still virgin ground.

Yet it's not clear exactly what, if anything, CBS really did wrong. As a general practice, networks avoid airing commercials for competing products or brands (i.e. Mac and Windows) in a single commercial pod. But there's no established rule for what to do when commercials simply look like each other.

In fact, if CBS is going to give Dockers a make-good, perhaps it ought to give Dr Pepper and/or TruTV make-goods as well. They also bought commercial time (which cost $2.5 million or more for 30 seconds) only to have their ads run adjacently. Both spots centered on miniature versions of recognizable celebrities. In the Dr Pepper ad, it was the members of KISS playing alongside their tiny doppelgangers; TruTV had a bite-sized Troy Polamalu standing in for Punxsatawney Phil on Groundhog Day. I contacted representatives of both companies to ask whether they were receiving, or expected, make-goods but haven't heard back. No word from CBS, either.