THEY are usually the most annoying part of sitting down in front of the box. But on Super Bowl day that all changes, when television advertisements are arguably as entertaining as the sporting spectacle taking place on the screen.
Some advertisers this year will fork out an incredible $US4 million ($3.85 million) for a 30-second spot during the most-watched US television event of the year: the showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens in the National Football League championship game, aired at 10am on Monday morning in Sydney.
That's a record for Super Bowl advertising, with the average cost of an ad sitting at $US3.75 million, up from $US3.5 million last year. Back in the first Super Bowl series in 1967, advertisers paid $US42,000 to air their commercials. And with the multimillion-dollar price tag, and an estimated 111 million pairs of eyeballs on television sets, the pressure is on to make a lasting impression on advertising's biggest day.
Featuring in this year's advertisements will be South Korean rapper Psy of Gangnam Style fame, who will be flogging Wonderful Pistachios, comedian Amy Poehler endorsing electronics company Best Buy, as well as actor Tracy Morgan, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and swimsuit model Kate Upton, among others.
Many companies are already trickling out their ads on YouTube, including Volkswagen, Century 21, Taco Bell and Mercedes-Benz. Volkswagen has come under fire from some critics, who labelled one of its Super Bowl ads racist for depicting a cheerful white office worker speaking in a Jamaican accent.
Other companies, including Gildan, Kraft and Anheuser-Busch, have released teasers to create hype, with the full-length ads to be a surprise on game day.
One of the most popular of this year's Super Bowl commercials viewed online so far features Upton watching a new Mercedes being washed in slow motion. It has already drawn more than 5 million views.
Doritos is continuing with its commercial contest for the seventh year in a row, asking amateur filmmakers to submit self-produced ads. The winner's ad will be aired during the Super Bowl, and the winner will get the chance to work on the next Transformers film with director Michael Bay.
Wonderful Pistachios said Psy will perform his signature horse dance move while wearing a pistachio-green tuxedo.
Les Moonves, chief executive of CBS, which is televising the game, said many companies were prepared to pay so much because their ads could become internet hits.
"That is absolutely a factor in the cost of the ads," Mr Moonves said. "The advertisers expect they'll get a nice bump online, so it's well worth the increase."
Super Bowl rates have risen about 60 per cent over the past decade, underscoring the value marketers place on reaching the largest TV audience. Last year's game, with 78 commercials, produced ad sales of $US262.5 million, according to Kantar Media, an industry researcher.
Super Bowl campaigns are designed to work across media, from TV to the internet, smartphones and tablets, said Jonathan Taplin, director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California.
"We've been talking about this coming for quite a time, and it does seem to finally be a reality," Taplin said.