Media Watch: Super Bowl advertisers ’dropped the ball’ Sunday

Last year, only three dot-coms advertised during the Super Bowl.

Last year, only three dot-coms advertised during the Super Bowl.

Last year, only three dot-coms advertised during the Super


Perhaps inspired by the runaway success of’s ’When I Grow

Up’ ad, 17 of the 36 sponsors who advertised this year were


Many had never advertised on television before and were making a huge

gamble on a one-shot commercial to propel their brand and services into

the minds of more than 130 million consumers. Unfortunately, after

spending dollars 2 million per 30-second commercial, few of the dot-coms

appear to have left a clear, strong impression of what they offer, much

less convince the public they need to buy the company’s products or


With a few notable exceptions, such as e-trade and, the brands

and images of most of the dot-coms were a blank slate to the average


CARMA reviewed coverage of advertising’s Monday-morning quarterbacks,

many of whom stated that the ads failed to deliver. Advertising Age’s

Bob Garfield said on ABC’s Good Morning America (January 31): ’Most of

these dot-coms did not succeed, either in memorability or in likability,

or for heaven’s sake, even telling you what they do for a living.’

The most frequent criticism was that if the dot-coms’ messages were

conveyed in their commercials, the public simply did not understand

them. Simon Williams, of brand consultancy the Sterling Group, told The

New York Times (February 1), ’If any dot-coms are still under the

impression that advertising was the simple solution to building brands,

then the Super Bowl will have put an end to that. Meaningless names,

meaningless messages and a serious lack of stature were the major


Coverage also indicated that viewers had trouble distinguishing one

dot-com from another. Stories attacked the dot-coms for thinking that,

after’s success last year, they just had to slap together a

funny line and flash their web site and viewers would automatically log


The Dallas Morning News (January 31) was among numerous publications

that felt baffled by the ads: ’After watching these commercials, it’s

still anyone’s guess who any of these companies are or what they


Another recurring criticism was that dot-coms were trying so hard to be

off-the-wall and hip that their audience had trouble relating a

commercial’s antics to a real-world product or service. An Ad Age

spokesman told Newsday (February 1), ’A lot of the dot-com advertising

is hilarious, but can you recall the name of the advertiser? Often with

dot-coms, all you can remember is the joke.’

Only a few articles reported that some dot-com advertisers are claiming

a Super Bowl victory. They acknowledge their ads may have been lacking

in quality, but point to statistics that their web sites have

experienced a spike in hits since their ads were broadcast.

CEO David Dunkel defended the ad his company broadcast. ’Hey, if we had

a bad commercial and people noticed, it still worked. More people are

logging on to our web site, and that’s what matters’ (St. Petersburg

Times, February 1).

While only time will tell if the dot-coms are able to parlay their ads

into recognizable brands and an expanded customer base, preliminary

media coverage suggests that they dropped the ball on Super Bowl


- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be

found at

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