Average Super Bowl ad prices soar to $2 million thanks to Internet companies


By Skip Wollenberg / AP Business Writer

NEW YORK — Some Internet companies are paying more to advertise for this season’s Super Bowl than they have generated in revenue, pushing the average price for a 30-second TV commercial to almost $2 million.

As many as a dozen “dot-com” advertisers are expected to join Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi-Cola, Federal Express, Visa and other longtime Super Bowl advertisers on the Jan. 30 telecast on ABC.

Dot-com advertisers have bought about 20 percent of the available commercials in the Super Bowl, industry insiders estimate.

Price evidently has been no object as industry insiders say the average charge for a Super Bowl commercial has soared 25 percent from the previous high of $1.6 million on the last NFL championship game broadcast. Super Bowl ad prices typically are the highest on TV.

Marvin Goldsmith, ABC’s head of sales and marketing, declined to comment on the prices but said sales have been helped by a strong economy and advertisers’ renewed appreciation of broadcast TV’s ability to reach a huge audience quickly.

The Super Bowl attracts the biggest TV ratings of the year at the same time the broadcast networks’ audiences have steadily eroded.

“There are very few of these platform events that offer the opportunity to reach the masses in a concise period,” said Bob Flood, who oversees national TV ad purchases made by DeWitt Media in New York.

Online marketers especially want to use the Super Bowl as “a showpiece for their Internet address and to say to the world that ‘we are playing with the big boys,’ ” said Bill Croasdale, a top commercial buyer at Western Initiative Media in Los Angeles.

But paying more for a 30-second commercial than you have generated in sales is a bold move even at a time when excess is the norm.

“We have not generated a dime yet,” said Ethan Russman, marketing director of Angeltips.com, which is paying $2 million for Super Bowl exposure with start-up money it raised from investors, mostly from Europe and Asia.

Russman said the exposure from two commercials during the game and a pregame show should build credibility and trust for the company.

“There is nothing else in the advertising and marketing world that matches the Super Bowl,” he said.

Computer.com, a 5-month-old Internet company, is spending about $3 million for a package that includes one commercial during the game and two in pregame shows.

The Maynard, Mass.-based company, dedicated to educating and advising computer novices on what to buy, has generated less than $500,000 in revenue to date.

“If I had to spend 10 times that ($3 million) amount, I could still probably rationalize the return,” Michael Zapolin, chief executive of Computer.com, said.

Another new Super Bowl sponsor is Ourbeginning.com, an online stationery store that specializes in wedding invitations, birth announcements and notices of “other significant life events.”

The company, founded in March in Orlando, Fla., expects to generate less than $1 million in revenue during its first year, chief executive and founder Michael Budowski said.

But he said it is spending $3.5 million-$4 million for one commercial during the Super Bowl, four before the game and an exclusive sponsorship of a 30-minute pregame program.

The chance to reach close to 100 million viewers so quickly makes it worthwhile, he said.

“One of the things with the Internet is that everyone is vying for position,” he said.

Two online job sites, Monster.com and Hotjobs.com, are back for the Super Bowl after advertising on last year’s broadcast.

They are joined by Pets.com, which sells pet supplies online; KForce.com, a job service aimed mainly at professionals; and screamingmedia.com, which organizes editorial content for Web site operators.

ETrade Group, the online brokerage, is sponsoring the halftime show and has purchased several ads during the game and pregame shows.

Oxygen Media, which offers information online and is launching a cable TV network, bought time for a rare Super Bowl commercial targeting women.

“It is the best place to reach women en masse,” Tricia Melton, vice president of marketing for Oxygen Media, said. “It’s a very unexpected place to be but we want to be in unexpected places.”