Fewer dotcom ads on Super Bowl


Only 3 Internet firms to air ads on football classic, compared with 17 last year

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A year after commercials by Internet companies dominated the airwaves at America’s most-watched sporting event, the dot-coms have been punted out of the Super Bowl.

Only three dot-coms will advertise in the U.S. football championship on Jan. 28, a far cry from last year’s game when 17 dot-coms took part in the premiere advertising event of the year in the United States.

At the height of the dot-com craze last year, now defunct Internet companies like Pets.com used the Super Bowl as a launching pad for their products and services.

But this year only Web broker E-Trade (EGRP: Research, Estimates), recruitment sites HotJobs.com Ltd. (HOTJ: Research, Estimates) and Monster.com, a unit of TMP Worldwide (TMPW: Research, Estimates), are back in the big game as the average $2.3 million price tag for a 30-second spot is way out of reach for cash-strapped Internet companies.

The downturn in technology and the dot-coms in general has caused these Web sites to retrench and reconsider their ad investments.

More traditional Super Bowl advertisers, such as MasterCard, are making their way back to reach the estimated 130 million U.S. viewers expected to watch the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens battle for the National Football League championship.

The game, being broadcast this year by Viacom Inc.’s CBS television network, is typically among the top-rated events of the year.

“The downturn in technology and the dot-coms in general has caused these Web sites to retrench and reconsider their ad investments,” said Bob Flood, director of national electronic media at Optimedia, which buys advertising space for advertisers on television and other media.

The dot-com domination of the year 2000 was an aberration in the history of Super Bowl advertising, traditionally the territory of consumer good giants like PepsiCo Inc. (PEP: Research, Estimates) and Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc. (BUD: Research, Estimates), advertising experts said.

“Last year’s Super Bowl was considered amateur hour,” said Bob Kuperman, president and chief executive for the Americas for advertising agency TBWA Worldwide, the unit of ad holding company Omnicom Group (OMC: Research, Estimates) that created Levi’s Strauss’ ads for this year’s game.

“It was all these crazy dot-coms that were doing silly things,” he said. “Some of them you could look at and not know what the company was about.”

Advertising experts said too many of last year’s dot-com advertisers did not grasp the concept that while the Super Bowl is the final game in a championship drive for a football team, the commercials aired on the game are merely the kick-off for new creative advertising campaigns. There must be follow-through if an advertiser wants to score a touchdown with the public.

“If you are looking at the Super Bowl as a one-shot deal, then you are not really using it in the right way,” Kuperman said. “If you go dark or disappear after that, you are not going to imprint your brand name on peoples’ minds.”

Mark DiMassimo, president and executive creative director of DiMassimo Brand Advertising said, “They were saying ‘just by the fact we can afford an ad on the Super Bowl that puts us on the map.'”

But there is a sense that the dot-coms that are advertising in this year’s game are taking a more mature approach to Super Bowl advertising and that they may be in it for the long term.

If you are looking at the Super Bowl as a one-shot deal, then you are not really using it in the right way.

“E-trade was successful in signing up significant numbers of new accounts” after its Super Bowl ads,” Optimedia’s Flood said. “For Hotjobs and Monster, it’s the new year when people reassess where they are in their careers.”

“Our traffic seems to hit record highs after the Super Bowl,” said Jeff Taylor, chief executive of Monster.com, a profitable dot-com advertising on its third Super Bowl. He said his site usually gets more traffic at the beginning of the new year and the Super Bowl gives it an extra push. “It really sets the tone for the year,” he said.

His company will pay less than $4 million for four 30-second spots, two during the pre-game show and two during the actual game. This year’s ads, created by Arhold Worldwide in Boston, will aim to show how people can live better with a better job and have “a little irony and a little more humor than in past years, Taylor said.

Hotjobs.com, on the other hand, is sticking with the theme of “optimism and individuality” in its ads for its third Super Bowl ad campaign, Chief Executive Richard Johnson said.

The company is paying $2.4 million for a 30-second spot during the third quarter of the game, in which a ball from a desk-top toy escapes the corporate grind with the Mamas & Papas song “Go Where You Wanna Go” playing as the soundtrack and runs away and joins a game of marbles.

“The whole idea is following destiny,” Johnson said.