Beleagured Dot-Coms Pass on Bowl Blurbs

Beleagured Dot-Coms Pass on Bowl Blurbs

By Ann Donahue

HOLLYWOOD – The sock puppet didn’t survive to see Super Bowl XXXV. Neither did, which gave up the ghost five months after the game. All traces of have been swept off the Internet.

Last year, there were 22 dot-coms that advertised during the National Football League’s championship game. This year, there will be four, all of them veterans of last year:, eTrade, and

The rest have seen their fortunes shift dramatically from the days when they could splurge $2 million on a 30-second ad.

“There was a gamble associated with it, and it was natural for these startup entrepreneurs to go for it because they are all gamblers in a way,” said Eric Webber, VP/communications director at media buyer GSD&M Advertising. “One of the other factors is ego, be it individual or corporate. It’s not just the Super Bowl of football, it’s the Super Bowl of advertising.”

This kind of hubris didn’t sit well with Wall Street. Stock prices for the public companies that took out ads last year have been pummeled, with several of the public companies bottoming out below $10.

Email and wireless reminder service, which ran an ad that declared itself the “official provider of electronic newsletters to,” went from a 52-week high of $94.81 to Thursday’s close of $4.56.

Postage site closed at 30 cents down from $20.63 in January 2000, while health site WebMD sunk to $9.53 from a one-year high of $75.19. Internet appliance designer Netpliance faces being delisted from the Nasdaq after its stock price traded below $1 for more than a month.

Then there are the layoffs. Search site laid off 75; Oxygen Media’s has had several rounds of pinkslips and closed its e-commerce store.

Others have been bought out, with e-tailer picked up by the Bertelsmann e-Commerce Group. Super Bowl ad buyer later merged with

In the where are they now category, there is bridal site, and, all of which took out Super Bowl ads and have had virtually no marketing since.

“Frankly, a lot of these smaller companies couldn’t sustain a whole ad campaign,” said Charlene Li, research director at Forrester Research. “There was one huge ad and then nothing. I call it the one-night-stand approach to developing a relationship with their customers.”

The survivors apparently found their Super Bowl dollars well spent last year, with EDS taking out two ads, one of which will mimic the famous “herding cats” ad but this time with squirrels, and eTrade taking out two ads and bringing back the monkey that danced to last year’s tagline, “Well, we just wasted 2 million bucks … what are you doing with your money?”

Notably, picking up the slack from the dot-coms are the movie studios. Sony’s “A Knight’s Tale,” Warner Bros.’ “Valentine,” Universal’s “The Mummy Returns” and MGM’s “Hannibal” all will be hyped during the game. will be Netcasting all the ads from Super Bowl XXXV a half-hour after they air.