Back For More Super Bowl Fun: Dot-Com Ads

As many defunct dot-coms discovered in the past few years, advertising during the Super Bowl can be as big of a gamble as picking a team to cover the point spread.

But every year, companies old and new line up to take a crack at advertising in hopes of scoring with viewers during the big game. Dot-com players are still keen on the idea too.

“Super Bowl advertising has so much hoopla,” said Joan Schneider, author of “New Product Launch: 10 Proven Strategies.” She said successful marketing and ads during the Super Bowl game have as much to do with what a sponsor does after the game is over as it does when the ball’s in play. “But for $2.4 million [for a 30-second ad], the commercial better be good too.”

Dot-com advertisers are nowhere in supply like they were in the Super Bowl of 2000. That game featured 17 dot-com advertisers, including, and, which paid top ad dollars in a bid to buy some mindshare.

This year, two Internet companies are taking the ad plunge during the Super Bowl XXXIX broadcast in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday., a leading vendor of domain names and hosting services, which is making its Super Bowl debut, and, the online job listing concern owned by major newspaper publishers.

GoDaddy Founder and President Bob Parsons defended the buy, noting that his company is no fly-by-night operation looking to splash itself across television screens in order to build up business overnight. It expects to rake in $200 million in revenue this year, without carrying any debt. The more than $4.5 million GoDaddy laid out for two 30 seconds spots won’t make or break his business even if it turns out to be “a complete whiff.”

But he’s still getting an earful, or perhaps a “blog-ful,” about the strategy, especially on BrandAutopsy, an ad industry blog that criticized the buy. Parsons insists nobody knows his business like he does.

“We are looking at this as a long term investment,” said Parson, whose company will have a $5 million online advertising budget in 2005. “We are not rolling the dice trying to make a company in 30 days,” he said, referring to the dot-com bowl hangover some still nurse five years later. “It is already made.”

Marketing analyst agree that it is not fair to blame the game’s ad rates for helping to empty the pockets of dot-coms that ran ads, then swiftly went out of business. Blame instead the dot-com players that paraded their wares in front of a large television audience but banked on shoddy business models.

“Marketers have to use all tools in their arsenal to get a retail touchdown and move consumers down field out the door and into the store,” added Schneider.

But Tom Feltenstein, a former marketing executive with McDonald’s and Burger King, is a naysayer about Super Bowl ads. “Nobody should do it,” said Feltenstein, the author of numerous marketing books including “The 10-Minute Marketer’s Formula: A Shortcut to Extraordinary Profits Using Neighborhood Marketing.”

“Advertising has become so frantic, expensive and ubiquitous. Businesses spend millions to reach consumers already besieged by messages.”

If advertising on television is a colossal waste, as Feltenstein suggested, than plunking down the $2.4 million for a 30-second ad, up from last year’s $2.3 million during the game — without a comprehensive follow-up plan — could be downright dangerous, he added.

It’s a risk GoDaddy is willing to take. Parsons said the ad decision was made with the consultation of a marketing firm. Parsons said GoDaddy has a service better than any out there, but was wondering why he was not getting the business to reflect it. “It was because nobody knew us,” he said.

And what better way to get known than in front of a captive audience of 144 million people.

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