For Card Companies, Last 'Seinfeld' Is Must-Buy TV
Coulton, Antoinette, American Banker
Credit card companies will be angling for front-row prominence as the curtain comes down Thursday night on "Seinfeld."
MasterCard International and Visa U.S.A. have bought advertising time on what is sure to be one of the most-watched programs in television history.
American Express Co., which usually tries to keep high-profile media buys like this under wraps until the event, is also likely to get into the act because the program's star, Jerry Seinfeld, is a company spokesman.
As a place for advertisers to be, the "Seinfeld" finale rivals the Super Bowl-the prices are comparable-and may turn out even better, said Larry Flanagan, MasterCard's vice president of U.S. advertising.
"Unlike the Super Bowl, the viewership will be very high from the beginning of the program to the end," he said. "It is a milestone event and will attract (regular 'Seinfeld' fans) in addition to casual viewers who want to see the last episode."
Early reports indicated NBC was trying to charge $2 million for a 30- second spot, well above the $1.3 million for the Super Bowl in January. Advertising Age reported the average cost ended up around $1.8 million, with some companies trying to bid it down to $1.5 million. That would still beat the Super Bowl record.
Sony Pictures Entertainment and Anheuser-Busch are among the other confirmed advertisers on the hourlong special, which will be preceded by an hour of highlights from past episodes.
Like the Super Bowl, "Seinfeld" affords "a golden opportunity to show something new and different, as opposed to a variation on a theme," said Stanley W. Anderson, president of Anderson & Associates, an Arvada, Colo., consulting firm. "If you are simply telling the same story, then you are probably not going to get the response and appeal."
Mr. Anderson said AT&T Universal Card Services Corp., now a Citicorp subsidiary, took advantage of the Academy Awards ceremony in 1990 to usher in its "no fee for life" promise, which had a lasting impact.
On "Seinfeld," Visa plans to premiere a 30-second commercial, "The Attic," another in the series spotlighting merchants that do not accept American Express. …