Tech Companies Bow Out Of Super Bowl Ad Frenzy

By Pete Barlas
Investor’s Business Daily

When it comes to advertising during the Super Bowl, most tech companies would rather sit on the bench than get in the game.

Few technology firms are willing or able to shell out the millions it takes to buy ads for Sunday’s big game. Just five tech companies will air spots. Compare that with 2000, when 17 of 36 Super Bowl advertisers were dot-coms.

The Internet boom was in full effect that year. So it’s not a fair comparison, says Charles Buchwalter, an analyst for market tracker Nielsen/NetRatings Inc.

“What we have now is the way it should be, and what we had a few years ago was an extreme situation,” he said.

Former dot-com Super Bowl advertisers such as, a Web services company, and retailer are long gone for lack of cash.

Others, like E-Trade Group Inc., have found new ways to spend their ad dollars.

For the last three years, E-Trade, an online financial services company, was the sole sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show. This year, E-Trade is sponsoring an entirely different sort of show: the Rolling Stones’ tour of North America.

Stones fans are the same audience E-Trade covets, says a company spokesman: men with money.

The five tech-related Super Bowl advertisers are AT&T Wireless Services, Fair, Isaac & Co., HotJobs, and Sony Corp.

Sony is returning to the game after a 10-year hiatus.

The company plans to air a 60-second spot in the fourth quarter to showcase some of its cutting-edge tech products, including personal computers, TVs and portable audio players.

Sony’s ads are aimed at empty-nest parents who have more time and money to spend.

“We are debuting a new campaign that targets baby boomers and empty nesters,” said Derek Koenig, director of marketing for Sony consumer electronics. “Their kids have gone away, and they have health and wealth.”

AT&T Wireless is no stranger to the Super Bowl. Last year the company used the game to launch a marketing campaign for its mLife mobile phone service.

This year, AT&T Wireless, a separate company from AT&T Corp., will replace E-Trade as the sponsor of the halftime show.

Analysts aren’t surprised that AT&T Wireless is grabbing more time at Sunday’s Super Bowl.

The company scored big last year in boosting its image, says Nielsen/NetRatings’ Buchwalter.

“They went from virtually zero visitors on their Web site to almost 700,000 people who visited the site on the day of the Super Bowl,” he said.

AT&T Wireless expects to gain even more ground with viewers this time, says Mark Siegel, spokesman for AT&T Wireless.

“It’s arguably the biggest TV event of the year, so it’s tremendous visibility for our company,” he said. “Exclusive sponsorship (of the halftime show) makes it even better.”

HotJobs, purchased by Yahoo Inc. last year, is a Super Bowl veteran.

The online job-listing firm placed ads in the last four games. This year it plans to run a 30-second spot in the third quarter and two others in the pregame show.

The January time frame of the Super Bowl works well for HotJobs.

Millions of people are looking for jobs because of layoffs or New Year’s resolutions, says Marc Karasu, vice president of advertising for HotJobs.

“It’s about reaching people who are in the process of taking stock of their lives,” he said. “It’s a very crucial month for many people.”

HotJobs likes the results.

Last year, the number of job seekers looking for listings on its site jumped by 63% on the Monday following the game.

That sends a clear message to employers, which pay HotJobs to join its service, says Karasu.

“Now’s a great time to sign up with HotJobs,” he said.

Not to be outdone, plans to place a 30-second ad near the two-minute warning in the second quarter.

The company, owned by recruiting firm TMP Worldwide Inc., competes with HotJobs. Like HotJobs, Monster has placed ads in the last four Super Bowls.

Monster is using the Super Bowl as proof the company continues to grow and flourish, says Jeff Martin, Monster’s founder and chairman.

“We are really pushing our brand to be a category survivor,” he said.

Super Bowl ads aren’t cheap. Analysts say a 30-second spot during the game sells for $2.2 million. About 800 million people are expected to see the game.

The cost of one ad is a fifth of Monster’s entire annual ad budget. Four years ago, one ad represented a quarter of the company’s ad budget.

Although its Super Bowl ads aren’t as critical now as they were in 1999, the game still presents a can’t-miss opportunity, says Martin.

“There are more than 8 million people looking for work right now, so it’s more relevant than ever,” he said.

Still, other former Super Bowl advertisers are sticking to the sidelines. Take LLC. It ran an ad in 2000 but won’t be advertising this year.

The ad in 2000 generated so much attention that it doesn’t feel the need to run another spot, says Clark Wood, AutoTrader’s vice president.