Dot-coms fade from Super Bowl


The advertising battle during next month’s Super Bowl promises to resemble the Clash of the Titans more than last year’s Revenge of the Nerds.

Gone are the free-spending hordes of dot-coms betting the bank on outrageous ads. While some arguably succeeded from a branding standpoint — who doesn’t remember the spunky sock puppet? — many, including the defunct, ultimately failed from a business standpoint. CBS officials estimate that they will get 10 percent of their Super Bowl ad revenue from dot-coms this year, down from about 40 percent to ABC last year.

Instead, the advertisers venturing into the 35th Super Bowl will largely be deep-pocketed giants of marketing: Anheuser-Busch Inc., MasterCard International Inc., Visa International, Charles Schwab & Co., Sony Corp. of America, RadioShack Corp., PepsiCo Inc., Philip Morris Companies Inc., Zale Corp. and Subway Restaurants, according to CBS officials.

The ads on the Super Bowl — the most-watched event on TV — are a popular gauge of which companies are looking to make a quick splash and have the money to do so. While it’s hard to estimate the bottom-line effect of the ads, the Super Bowl has become the most prestigious advertising event for companies and advertising agencies. This year, CBS even plans a “best of” segment on past Super Bowl ads.

Two other advertisers will be taking advantage of the ratings bonanza — an estimated 80 million households, or about half the TV watching population — to introduce new brand identities of otherwise seasoned companies. Accenture, the new name of Andersen Consulting, and Cingular Wireless, the combo of SBC Wireless and BellSouth Mobility, each plan to initiate campaigns during the Super Bowl — a move ad experts applauded.

“It’s an incredible place,” said Tim Spengler, director of national broadcast for Initiative Media Worldwide. “If you’ve got deep pockets and a good creative [ad], you’ve got a chance to have everybody know who you are the next day.”

Many of the 17 dot-coms that appeared on the games last year — including, LifeMinder,, Netpliance, and — are either on a stricter ad budget, out of the advertising business or out of business altogether.

Ad sales haven’t suffered from the dot-com dropouts, reported CBS Television Networks president of sales, Joseph Abruzzese, who said the network expects to reap about 12 percent to 15 percent more in revenue than ABC’s take of $189 million last January, according to Competitive Media Research.

“We’re almost sold out,” he said, adding that scoring three advertisers — Cingular, Accenture and a car company he said will be announced soon — “more than make up for the dot-coms.”

This year, advertisers are paying about $2.2 million to $2.3 million per spot, slightly higher than last year’s average, media buyers said.

Some dot-coms are bucking the trend and making repeat appearances. E-Trade will once again sponsor the halftime event. And two online job-search sites,, owned by TMP Worldwide, and Ltd., will once again be duking it out for recognition. will have two 30-second spots during the game and two pre-game spots. will have one game spot and four before the game.

The job-search sites said they are willing to fork over $2.4 million and more largely because the Super Bowl comes at a fortuitous time for their businesses: Employees have just received their year-end bonuses, they’ve used up their vacation time, and they’ve made their New Year’s resolutions, which often include a job switch. And unlike soda, which customers would have to leave the house to buy, job sites report instant responses after the ads run.

“The Super Bowl is really the kickoff for the marketing efforts for us,” said Zhenaa Gallagher, director of advertising for And as a two-time veteran of Super Bowl ads — including the acclaimed “When I grow up” campaign featuring kids aspiring to such lowly dreams as “to be a yes man” — the company now believes its customers expect it to produce.