Some Dot-Coms Back Out of Super Bowl - Commercial Clutter Feared

By Greg Farrell and Michael McCarthy


NEW YORK — With less than four weeks to go before the Super Bowl, dot-com advertisers are starting to bail out of ABC’s telecast.

Picking up the slack: big companies with lots of money and a story to tell. Microsoft has purchased ad time during the pregame show and is strongly considering its first Super Bowl spot to promote its e-business consulting services, spokesman Frank Shaw says.

Advertisers who are hoping to make last-minute buys for the Jan. 30 game say as many as four dot-com companies have been trying to resell their ad time. Firms that already have decided to skip the game:

* The company, which provides content for Web start-ups, plans to go public soon. That means it is barred by the Securities and Exchange Commission from promoting itself in unusual ways, which would include advertising on the Super Bowl, a spokeswoman says.

ScreamingMedia’s original investors include former adman Jay Chiat, whose agency helped make the Super Bowl into an advertising spectacular with a commercial for Apple Computers in 1984.

Chiat decided to advertise on the Super Bowl to make a splash for ScreamingMedia. But when he learned that as many as a dozen of the game’s 30-odd advertisers were dot-coms, he reconsidered.

“I was thinking, ‘Maybe there will be three to six dot-com advertisers,’ ” he says.

* The site, which seeks to match individual investors with hot prospects, decided last week to stay on the sidelines.

President Steve Fu says it made more sense for the company to use its money to advertise later in the year. ABC allowed the company to reallocate its advertising.

Other dot-com advertisers have to be wondering whether paying $2 million to $3 million for a 30-second ad is worth it.

Their concern: Heavy advertising by dot-coms during the holiday season did not generate as much Web traffic as hoped.

“I’ve been saying for weeks that if Christmas doesn’t deliver, these guys are going to be falling by the wayside,” says Tom DeCabia, executive vice president at media buyer Schulman/Advancers.