Internet start-ups line up for Super Bowl kickoff

Big game is viewed as the prestige place for dot-com ads to be seen

Cost tops revenue of many


January 19, 2000|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

When Super Bowl Sunday rolls around Jan. 30, watch out for an onslaught of dot-com advertising, according to the annual survey by Eisner Communications of Baltimore.

This year's sponsors are likely to include about 10 dot-com advertisers, compared with two last year -- and, both of which are expected to advertise again this year.

"There is this big proliferation of dot-coms essentially launching their companies on the Super Bowl," said David Blum, vice president of strategic planning for Eisner.

"We're going from two to 10 [that are] taking a big risk. Both the ones that took the big risk last year are back. That tells you something."

Each will spend about $2 million for a 30-second spot -- in some cases more revenue than the company generated last year, according to Blum., for instance, a company that allows subscribers to create their own stationery and invitations, had revenue of about $1 million last year and is putting $2 million into an ad, Blum said.

Why would a start-up company do that? For the chance to get its product in front of about 140 million viewers and to make its Web site a category leader, Blum said.

"This [Internet world] is happening so quickly that if I'm the first out there, I can beat 50 others that come after me," he said.

Also, there is an undeniable magic to the Super Bowl.

"People have this thought about companies that advertise on the Super Bowl, that they must be big companies," Blum said. "It can create the perception that you're bigger than you are."

But to be successful, however, advertisers better have money in their marketing budgets to follow up after the Super Bowl, Blum warned.

"Outside of a huge mega-spot that people remember, when you go back and ask them about a spot from previous years of Super Bowls, you never get more than 6 percent recognition on an unaided basis," he said.

This marks the 11th Super Bowl advertising survey that Eisner has done, and this year's showed that more people than ever will be tuning in specifically to see the ads -- 8 percent, or about 12 million viewers, Blum said.

At the same time, fewer viewers than ever say they will be watching the game because of a deep interest in one of the teams or because they think it's going to be a great game. The number is 9 percent, compared with 12 percent in 1999 and 18 percent in 1988.

One factor is the lack of big names and major cities in a game that will pit either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or St. Louis Rams against either the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Tennessee Titans.

Fans are expected to be more inattentive than usual, meaning that advertisers will have to try harder to be noticed.

Those factors should contribute to entertaining viewing for fans of commercials.

"Because the whole [online] industry is a cutting-edge media, and Internet use skews [to a] younger [audience], the dot-coms' creative [output] tends to be more cutting edge and wacky in order to reach those most likely to use its services," Blum said. "It's safe to say we'll see more of the same on the Super Bowl."

Independent research conducted by a New York advertising firm, DiMassimo Brand Advertising, shows that only 4 percent of 1,200 people surveyed could name one of the two Web sites that advertised on last year's Super Bowl.

"People are overwhelmed with all the dot-coms," said Mark DiMassimo, the firm's president and creative director. "There is so much dot-com that it all blends together. It's all one big brand called dot-com."

In contrast, 82 percent of those surveyed named Pepsi as a sponsor for last year's Super Bowl, he said.

Several factors probably helped create the disparity, he said. Pepsi used multiple ads, and those ads were widely acclaimed as among the most creative and memorable, he said. Pepsi also is an established brand, he noted.

Despite some evidence that people are not paying attention to the specific brand of dot-com advertising they are watching, DiMassimo predicts that it will dominate Super Bowl Sunday.

Beside,,, other expected Internet Super Bowl sponsors are:, and

Much of the money that new companies are getting from venture capitalists is for advertising, and there are limits on where that money can be spent, he said.

For instance, billboards have already been booked for the first part of this year, so start-up companies that received money as of Jan. 1 with orders to spend it during the first quarter may have to turn to television. And what more prestigious buy is there than the Super Bowl?

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