Old Economy Companies In Super Bowl Ad Lineup



Daily News Business Writer

There may be some football to be played on Sunday, Jan. 28, but its Super Sunday for advertisers, as well.

At $2.5 million for a 30-second spot, this year’s Super Bowl ads are going to look a little like the stock market old economy companies are hot, dot-coms are not.

While TV coverage of the game the last two years were laced with ads from Internet companies, the Nasdaq’ 39% plunge in 2000 took the steam out of many dot-coms or worse.As a result, this year just three major dot-coms are set thus far to advertise. Last year, well over a dozen would-be cyber stars spent an average of $2.2 million for a 30-second ad.

E-trade had an interesting cast of characters for last year’s Super Bowl offering, and will sport new ad this year that won’t be released until day of the game. Pets.com, whose Sock Puppet wowed last year’s Super Bowl viewers, closed down in November. Oxygen.com is a no-show this year.

With an expected U.S. audience of 135 million TV viewers, it’s the biggest event on the advertising calendar. It’s also a bonanza for CBS, which is airing the game this year.

The network plans to debut “Survivor II” after the game, and CBS chief Mel Karmazin said Super Bowl Sunday 2001 will be “the most revenue generating day in TV history,” according to spokesman Dana McClintock.

CBS hopes to take in about $150 million in ads, including pre- and post-game shows. There will be fewer advertisers overall with each company buying more spots, one ad industry insider said.

Given the huge audience and the huge cost, advertisers are expected to strut their best stuff, often pushing the envelope in terms of creativity and, occasionally, taste.

“It is a brutal, high-stakes game that produces a few legends and a surprising number of also-rans,” said Scott Purvis, president of ad research company Gallup & Robinson.

Major advertisers will include such household names as Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Visa and FedEx. As of last week, CBS had 10 30-second spots unsold out of about 60 available. Details on specific ads were virtually impossible to come by, since most campaigns are treated like military secrets till their debut.

“To CBS’ credit, this year has a much broader base of advertisers. There’s not one category, like dot-coms,” said media buyer John Lazarus of PN Media.

Amid the biggest plays expected that Sunday include the work of Levi Strauss, set to make its Super Bowl debut. So will Accenture, the renamed Andersen Consulting, which will spend a portion of its $175 million re-branding campaign on four Super Bowl spots.

MasterCard, which skipped last year’s game because it said the dot-com companies created “an unreal media environment,” is returning.

FedEx, a Super Bowl veteran, said its ads will build on the “NFL Air and Ground Attack” campaign that’s run since September. “We’re still working on the creative [details] of the ad,” said spokeswoman Carla Boyd.

For Volkswagen, also making its Super Bowl debut, and perennial advertiser Anheuser-Busch, owner of Budweiser, being exclusive advertisers costs plenty.

“This our best year since 1973. It’s an opportunity to say, ‘VW is back in a big way,'” Volkswagen of America Tony Fouladpour said. Media buyers speculated that VW is paying $9 million to $10 million for exclusive car advertising rights during the game.

GM’s Pontiac will sponsor the post-game show.

Anheuser-Busch will be the sole beer advertiser for the 13th consecutive year and will be the most prominent, as well, with eight 30-second spots, including what’s called the post-position spot: the first ad after kickoff.

It’s a good guess Anheuser-Busch ads will be similar to those that star Louie the Lizard, Gallup & Robinson’s Purvis said.

One Super Bowl dot-com contest that has survived pits job-search sites Monster.com and HotJobs.com of New York, both of which will advertise for the third year running.

Of HotJobs’ four commercials, one during the third quarter is said to feature the Mamas & the Papas’ classic, “Go Where You Wanna Go” and the tag line, “HotJobs.com. Onward. Upward,” according to USA Today.

The only other dot-com confirmed for the starting lineup is online brokerage firm E-trade, which returns as sponsor of the half-time show featuring Aerosmith and ‘N Sync.

“Our decision to return as Super Bowl sponsors is not about what’s happening with other companies … but about what it generated for E-trade last year,” said spokesman Jeff Kruger. Super Bowl XXXIV resulted in “three great months for us,” Kruger said. “We got a great return.”

But the ad scene this year will be most notable for who’s not there.

Pets.com, the pet supply Web site whose popular Sock Puppet sang in its Super Bowl ad, went out of business last November.

Silicon Alley’s Oxygen Media used its 2000 advertising to promote its cable TV channel for women. But a spokeswoman said, “it was a one-time thing” and Oxygen won’t attend this year’s Super Bowl.

Likewise for Ourbeginning.com, a wedding invitation site, and MicroStrategy, the business software company whose stock has tumbled to around $10 from a 52-week high of $333 amid accounting problems.

Another ad team sitting out this year will be The Wall Street Journal interactive edition, WSJ.com.

Last year, “it was part of a major marketing push and turned out to be quite effective,” said Dow Jones spokesman Richard Tofel, adding that subscriptions to the site rocketed soon after. “It’s not the kind of thing you want to do every year.”