Super Bowl Shakeout

Advertising inventory for the game nearly sold out, despite dot-com fallout.

Jim Welte

Seemingly content to let their nascent dot-com counterparts steal the limelight during last year’s Super Bowl, traditional branding powerhouses are reclaiming the stage of the biggest advertising event of the year. Although the number of dot-com advertisers has plummeted from 17 last year to 3 this year, CBS announced today that it has sold 59 of its 60 30-second advertising slots during the broadcast of Super Bowl XXXV, which airs on January 28.

Ann Cleveland, media director at Katsin-Loeb, an advertising agency in San Francisco, says that the return to an advertising lineup dominated by traditional companies reflects more than just depleted marketing budgets for dot-coms. “The reason that a lot of dot-coms wanted to advertise on the Super Bowl is because of the prestige it brings,” she says. “In many cases, it was done literally to feed the CEO’s ego.”

E*Trade (EGRP, info), (TMPW, info) and (HOTJ, info) are the only dot-com advertisers in this year’s game, but the usual cast of brands, such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola (COKE, info), Frito-Lay (PEP, info) and Visa, have filled the void. PepsiCo, for instance, has increased its ad buy from four to six spots this year, and has also ramped up efforts on Super Bowl-related online promotions.

To celebrate its 15th year of advertising in the Super Bowl, Pepsi is running an interactive promotion on Yahoo! (YHOO, info) Broadcast, allowing users to view five popular Pepsi commercials from past Super Bowls and vote for their favorite. The top choice will air on CBS immediately following the game.

Traditional advertisers also dominate Super Bowl-centric advertising campaigns on CBS Sportsline CBS Sportsline (SPLN, info) and, the two online properties expected to see huge spikes in traffic during and after the Super Bowl, according to spokesman Alex Riethmiller. RCA, Frito-Lay, Ford (F, info), Coca-Cola, Visa, Accenture, E&J. Gallo Wines and Go Tampa have all made ad buys targeting the online Super Bowl audience.

“The traditional advertisers simply know how to advertise,” says Hilary Fadner, spokesperson for Unicast, an interactive advertising company, which last year ran online promotions similar to what Pepsi is doing this year. To showcase its Superstitial online ad format (a Superstitial is essentially a rich media Internet commercial), Unicast ran previews of several Super Bowl ads for clients that were using its Superstitial format–including Universal Pictures (VO, info) and WorldCom (WCOM, info).

Traditional advertisers “have always approached both the online and offline markets strategically.” Miller (MO, info) and Coca-Cola are the only advertisers using the Superstitial format for Super Bowl campaigns, says Fadner. While traditional advertisers have taken up the slack from dot-com advertisers, both Cleveland and Fadner are surprised that more Internet companies haven’t targeted the Super Bowl with online campaigns that wouldn’t command the approximately $2 million that a 30-second television spot does. “Marketing budgets have been slashed, and people just aren’t thinking creatively in terms of other ways to market themselves around this event,” says Fadner.

Source: CBS Corp.

Jim Welte ( is a reporter for