An Exception to the Super Bowl Dot-Coms


NEW YORK — Stop the presses! Not every first-time advertiser on the coming Super Bowl is a dot-com.

For months, Madison Avenue has been calling Super Bowl XXXIV, to be broadcast by ABC on Jan. 30, the “dot-com bowl” or the “e-bowl.” The reason: More than a dozen Internet companies are scheduled to make their Super Bowl advertising debuts during the game, compared with three in 1999 and one apiece in 1998 and 1997.

The eagerness of dot-coms to parade themselves before what is usually the largest viewing audience of the year helped drive ad rates for Super Bowl XXXIV to a record average of more than $2 million for each 30-second spot during the game, at least 25 percent more than the 1999 rate. Some latecomers are paying up to $3 million for their 30 seconds of fame.

“We’ve got a different objective from a lot of the advertisers in the Super Bowl” seeking “to make a name for themselves,” said Roger Berdusco, senior vice president for marketing at Tropicana Products in Bradenton, Fla., which will join the lengthy list of initial advertisers dominated by such dot-coms as,,,, and

Unlike most of those dot-coms, “we have good awareness of our brand,” Berdusco said, adding: “Our purpose is to seed a new campaign with an important message. And what better way to expose that message to a lot of people who would benefit from it than kicking it off during the Super Bowl?”

The campaign, by the New York office of FCB Worldwide, part of True North Communications, portrays the Tropicana Pure Premium brand of orange juice as a quick, nutritional fuel for busy people. The campaign, carrying the theme “The best 9.3 seconds you can possibly spend on yourself,” will replace a 4-year-old effort that characterized the brand as “perfect.”

“Having been involved in Super Bowl efforts before, I know it’s easy to be distracted,” said Matt Fischer, senior vice president and group creative director at FCB New York, an art director who developed the Tropicana campaign with his copywriter partner, Rob Austin.

“The Super Bowl can cause people to do stupid things, especially in our business,” Fischer said, referring to extravagant commercials that “are created mostly for entertainment value” rather than to offer “a clear, cogent message” about the sponsor’s brand.

“But you have to keep your eye on the ball, so to speak,” he added, which in this instance meant promoting the drinking of a glass of Tropicana as “an easy thing to do.”

The commercial to run during the Super Bowl, the first of four planned by FCB, will present in high speed a sequence of events that are part of a person’s morning routine. The sped-up footage is interrupted when the person drinks a glass of Tropicana in 9.3 seconds, which is shown in real time. That accomplished, the footage reverts to the artificially faster pace as the spot ends.

“We’ve done a lot of research about the morning,” Berdusco said, which included data from “consumers who let us put cameras in their kitchens.”

“Only 25 percent of people who have breakfast every morning drink orange juice,” he added, “and even our superloyal users of orange juice are not drinking it every day.”

The primary reason for that, Berdusco said, was “consumers who are increasingly ‘morning-challenged,’ with so many things to do, pushing aside orange juice” — even though they are “increasingly concerned about nutrition.”

So the idea was born, he added, to declare that “you can’t find a more powerful form of convenient nutrition” than Tropicana.

What is the genesis of the 9.3-second figure, other than a desire to have a quirky-sounding number in the commercial that would be easy to remember? You may recall that Nestle once heralded the inclusion of “43 beans in every cup of new Nescafe” instant coffee and that Kellogg once promoted the “two scoops of raisins in every package of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran,” a figure that turned up the other night as an answer on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

“The number ‘9.3’ had a good ring to it,” Fischer said, “and we did some empirical testing by having some people at the agency guzzle a glass and time them.”

“We’ve taken it to some focus groups,” he added, “and we’ve gotten great response.”

There’s also a fiendishly clever and subtle dig in the “9.3 seconds” pitch, aimed at Tropicana’s principal competitor, the Minute Maid brand of orange juice sold by Coca-Cola Co. The implication is that 9.3 seconds is faster — and therefore better — than a minute, a word that occurs frequently in the current Minute Maid campaign, which carries the theme “Squeeze the day.”

The Tropicana foray into the Super Bowl comes a year and a half after the brand was acquired by PepsiCo, a mainstay Super Sunday marketer for Pepsi-Cola Co. soft drinks and Frito-Lay snacks.

The PepsiCo ownership “played no part at all” in Tropicana’s arrival onto the Super Bowl ad field, said Berdusco, who until six months ago was supervising the marketing department for the North American division of Frito-Lay.

Having overseen Super Bowl spots for snacks like Cracker Jack, Doritos and Rold Gold, “I’m familiar with the Super Bowl as a media platform,” he added, “and it’s a great way to get your message out to so many consumers at one time,” dot-com clutter or not.

The other PepsiCo units have varied ad plans for the Super Bowl. Pepsi-Cola is likely to take two minutes of commercial time for Mountain Dew — that brand’s first appearance during the game — and perhaps one other brand. Frito-Lay is sponsoring the pregame show and is not expected to run spots during the game itself.