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Super Bowl fans will be spared risque ads

THE US Super Bowl may be the most watched event on television in a nation known for its love of this couch-based pastime. But this year, an estimated 130 million viewers will not be confronted with the type of risque references favoured by advertisers, following the brief revelation of Janet Jackson's breast during a half-time show in 2004.

The moral outrage prompted by Ms Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" has persuaded companies including Ford, Budweiser's maker Anheuser-Busch and Airborne, which makes a natural cold remedy, to pull controversial commercials from networks charging up to $4.8m (pounds 2.6m) a minute during the American football event.

GlaxoSmithKline, the UK's largest drug maker, is also thought to be scrapping ads for its erectile dysfunction drug, Levitra, which it promoted heavily at last year's event.

Anheuser-Busch was to show an ad poking fun at the fuss caused when the singer, Justin Timberlake, supposedly accidentally revealed Ms Jackson's breast. The brewing giant has thought better of it and is now showing it only on its website, budweiser.com.

Mickey Rooney's bottom was to feature in the Airborne ad which has been canned. It is revealed briefly when he drops his towel in a sauna scene after someone coughs behind him. A spokesperson for the Fox TV network said: "Our standards department reviewed the ad, and it was deemed inappropriate for broadcast television."

Ford backed down from airing an ad for a truck made by its Lincoln division following objections by a group representing people abused by members of the clergy. In the ad, a priest is tempted to buy one of the new vehicles after its key has been dropped in his collection plate by a young girl. The advocacy group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it was offensive because the girl looked "shy and compliant".

Ford insisted there was nothing sinister about the marketing tactic, but a spokesperson for Lincoln told The New York Times: "We don't agree with their assessment, but we understand their opinion. We want to make sure the attention is on the truck, not the controversy."

TV networks and America's National Football League have planned carefully for this year's Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, to be strictly family affair. The half-time act by Ms Jackson and Mr Timberlake has been replaced by a performance by Sir Paul McCartney.

It is an expensive mistake for advertisers or TV networks who get the mood wrong during the Super Bowl, which this year will be between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Federal Communications Commission levied a $550,000 fine against Viacom, the parent of the CBS network, after the incident last year.

However, Izzy DeBellis, the creative director at Berlin Cameron & Partners, an agency owned by WPP, said advertisers would still find ways to make their offerings slightly racy. He said: "It will be a little bit masked because of the sensitivity, but it will still be there because the Super Bowl has turned into an event which is as much about the adverts as the game."

A string of relatively obscure companies have been affected by using the Super Bowl event to catapult themselves on to the national stage, only to fold shortly afterwards. The Super Bowl of 2000 was known as the "dot.com bowl" after it featured 17 hi-tech advertisers, many of which have subsequently disappeared, such as LifeMinders.com and Epidemic.com.