Unicast sweepstakes to preview Super Bowl ads online



By Jim Welte

SAN FRANCISCO, (Reuters) — Undeterred by an average price of more than $2 million for a 30-second spot during the Jan. 30 Super Bowl, advertisers plan to flood the airwaves once again during the world’s largest advertising showcase.

Unicast Communications, a New York City-based provider of media services for companies advertising on the Internet, plans to give three of those advertisers the chance to rise above the din with Monday’s launch of what it is billing as the inaugural SuperStitial Showdown and sweepstakes.

The Showdown involves the online preview of the television advertisements for communications giant MCI WorldCom Inc., Universal Pictures and kforce.com, a Web-based specialty staffing firm. The previews, which can be seen at http//:www.supershowdown.com, utilize Unicast’s SuperStitial rich media format, which uses a delivery system that cuts down on the delay that normally occurs in the loading of graphic-heavy images onto a Web page.

Ads in the SuperStitials format load separately from the rest of the Web page, and if the user clicks on a new page before the ad has finished loading, the ad will pause and wait for the next page to load before becoming visible to the user. The benefit is twofold: the user is not slowed down in surfing the Web, and advertisers can be assured that their ads will be seen in full and not cut off abruptly.

Visitors to the site will be able to vote for their favorite of the three ads and, by doing so, enter to win $10,000.

The ads for MCI WorldCom, Universal Pictures and kforce.com were created by the Grey Direct E. Marketing, New York, unit of Grey Advertising DDB Digital, Chicago, a unit of Omnicom Group’s DDB Worldwide, and Beyond Interactive, New York, respectively.

“One of the uses of the Internet is to provide information and preview information on demand and allow users to have a two-way communication method with advertisers,” said Allie Shaw, vice president of marketing for Unicast. “This promotion happening during the Super Bowl really leverages what the Internet was designed to do, which is preview things and then the Super Bowl takes place and the users are able to communicate back to the advertisers.”

Michele Slack, online advertising analyst at Jupiter Communications, which tracks Internet firms, said that both the advertisers and Unicast stand to benefit substantially from the venture. “The advertisers can expand the time that they have to connect with consumers beyond the actual event of the Super Bowl itself,” she said. “I also think it’s great for Unicast, because it highlights their technology …”

Shaw said that Unicast had approximately a dozen potential advertisers that expressed interest in participating in the showdown, and that they wanted to narrow it to three distinctive companies.

“There’s this dot-com disease of wanting to include and do absolutely everything you possibly can,” said Shaw. “But what we really wanted to do is showcase two or three really amazing pieces of creative.”

Along with online promotion for the showdown on sites such as http//:www.nfl.com and http//:www.espn.com, the SuperStitial showdown will be supported by six full-page ads in USA Today.

“The fact that they’re doing offline is what I like, and USA Today is pretty much a mass vehicle so they’re going to get pretty good reach with that,” said Jupiter’s Slack. “If you’re going to do this, then do it right. The last thing they’d want to have happen is for them to do this and then have no traffic coming to the site.”

((New York Advertising Desk, 212-859-1886))