'Mini Abe' Illinois Super Bowl ad defended by state officials

January 31, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Chicago may not be playing in the Super Bowl, but Illinois will be seen on Super Bowl TV-- at least for half a minute.

A "quirky" commercial featuring an animated Abe Lincoln will run just once in Chicago only and will cost Illinois taxpayers $127,500.

Even though Illinois has billions in unpaid bills and can't meet pension obligations, the tourism branch of the Department of Commerce says it money well spent.

The ad ends with one of the nation's most revered presidents getting squished by a football. It will probably be just before halftime here at the world's most-watched football game that the 30-second tourism ad will be broadcast.

Famous ad agency J. Walter Thompson produced the spot that on Friday commerce officials defended as a "new and creative way to reach out to people, show(ing) them 'Mini Abe' in a variety of places throughout the state."

Even though the ad shows numerous Chicago tourist attractions, state tourism officials say it is airing in Chicago as an effort to get Chicagoans out to explore the whole state. As for spending $127,000 when the state is broke, they say: "This is on the whole a rather modest effort within the limits of our budget try to promote ourselves to a very good audience."

An Illinois commerce official said Friday that they have found that this kind of TV promotion works to increase state tourism. A version of the Mini Abe Lincoln ad has been on the state's YouTube channel for a few months and 46,000 people have seen it.

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