Super Bowl Dot-Com,4164,2430261,00.html

By John C. Dvorak, PC Magazine

Every year, advertisers use the Super Bowl to try to make a name for themselves. Last year, two Internet start-ups got a lot of media attention by spending their entire yearly ad budgets to buy Super Bowl ads. Although there were a lot of newbie ads this year, only one dot-com advertisement was spectacular in concept and execution. The overall mediocrity was exacerbated by the deluge of crummy house ads for ABC and Disney that never seemed to go away. It felt like the overhyped Regis Philbin was actually sponsoring the entire game. My advice to the NFL: Don’t use ABC ever again.

That said, here are my grades for this year’s crop of dot-com commercials.

Without question, the cat-herding ad from EDS was one of the greatest ads you’ll ever see. Combining humor, silliness, and special effects, this ad is unforgettable. You can see it at the EDS site. I’m giving it an A+.

First runner-up: E-Trade. These guys put in the most effort, with a series of new ads highlighted by the one with the guy who needed medical attention for having “money coming out his wazoo.” All the ads were fun and attention getting. A-

Second runner-up: Microsoft. With little fanfare, Microsoft rolled out a thematic series of ads based on a “bonehead CEO.” I thought these ads, while hardly spectacular, were charming and memorable, especially since they began the day with a switcheroo that got my attention. For months the company had been running a single ad with the bonehead CEO waiting in a lobby with some woman who was going on and on about her e-business strategy when she asks him what his company has done about its E.R.P. The guy looks befuddled and says, “Urp?” On Super Bowl day, they changed his response to “Kind of mixed it all in there.” Caught me completely off-guard. After that, they ran a new series. B+ ran a hilarious ad last year but followed up this year with a creepy, sentimental, humorless ad that finished with kids stupidly floating in the air for no known reason. It was bad. Here’s hoping the company won’t make it worse by running this exact same ad all year long. D- failed with its singing idiots. Some observers see ads that sell nothing and say nothing about the company as important for building a brand. Yeah, maybe–if you’re Budweiser, and people know that you make beer (the two Budweiser ads featuring the dogs were priceless). I have no idea what these people do and have no desire to find out. F gave us Mohammed Ali punching at the screen with some comments superimposed. I read the comments a couple of times (I taped these ads), and they were all meaningless non sequiturs. Worse, the ad was both disturbing and annoying. F

Ads from,, and Epidemic Marketing all stunk up the place, too. And, let’s not forget — the new content site for women — whose commercial had “waste of money” written all over it. It depicted rebellious babies and was similar to an ad for the World Wrestling Federation. Must have been the same ad agency.

Other advertisers included Charles Schwab & Co. (C+), (C+), (C), and The Wall Street Journal (boring, C-). Companies like E-Stamp and WebEx were there running old ads. They flunk for lack of effort.

Noticeably missing from this showcase were Apple and IBM — Apple because it invented the monster Super Bowl ad back in 1984, and IBM because it’s doing some of the most memorable ads promoting e-business these days. Both stayed away. I was also surprised to see that although the game was on ABC/Disney, and the network pounded home the and sites, the ABC/Disney GO Network wasn’t mentioned once. That was either a stupid oversight or a not-so-subtle hint that the end is near for the money-losing operation, which just last week announced it would be refocusing on leisure and lifestyles.

One thing’s for sure: This year’s game was better than the commercials. Maybe dot-coms will soon wise up and realize that this is no way to spend $2 million.