Net Companies Drop the Super Bowl Ball
January 10, 2001
Ad spots are still open for this year’s game, and online companies will be conspicuously absent – except for a couple of job sites.
By Jen Muehlbauer
Is the Super Bowl suffering a new-economy slowdown? Probably not, since Super Bowl ads were huge business back when the Pets.com sock puppet was still a ball of yarn. But it’s a different scene this year, now that eager dot-coms have stopped bidding up the prices for ad time.
ABC aired the game in 2000, when unknown companies such as Epidemic.com and OurBeginning.com snapped up their 30 seconds of fame. This year, CBS has six ad slots (10 percent) open, and the game is two-and-a-half weeks away. ABC had sold out at this time last year. Previous Bowls show 5 percent vacancy at this point. “Leftover Super Bowl ad time this late is a bad sign,” said the Wall Street Journal, and selling time this year “hasn’t been a cinch.” Blame the slowing economy, said the Journal, since even established companies cut their ad budgets first when things get rough.
CNNfn cited the Wall Street Journal story and included a CBS rebuttal to the “bad sign” statement. The 10 percent ad vacancy is “by design,” said a CBS rep. The New York Post reported the same thing, calling CBS “optimistic” about selling the six remaining slots. It’s all “part of (CBS’) strategy to retain control,” said a CBS spokesperson, and “demand for inventory could increase.” After all, big-spending latecomers were responsible for some of ABC’s good fortune in last year’s Bowl. Current sponsors may also want to buy more time, said MSNBC.
MSNBC’s Jane Weaver suggested that advertising connoisseurs won’t miss the dot-com ads one bit. “The plethora of dot-com companies screaming for attention – and dragging down the quality of the ad creative, as critics charged – is gone,” wrote Weaver. (She’s right, but can we all resolve to stop using “creative” as a noun in 2001?) CBS’s president for network sales gave the New York Times his own reason to rejoice that the Netcos are gone: Because so many companies bought just one ad spot, the game was overcrowded by too many names, and it “did damage” to the Super Bowl ad mystique.
But don’t forget the three online companies sticking around for this year’s game: HotJobs, Monster.com and ETrade. Yes, that’s two job sites (there were three last year). “I suspect there’s an ego contest between (HotJobs and Monster),” one ad expert told USA Today last week. “Neither side wants to flinch and be seen as the one pulling out.” We assume the firms have other reasons to advertise on Super Sunday – at about $2.4 million a pop, that’s an expensive game of chicken.