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News
Dot.coms fumble with ads
January 31, 2000: 5:12 p.m. ET

Super Bowl spots judged entertaining, but fail to send viewers clear message
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Cute dog puppets, angry brides and clapping monkeys made for entertaining commercial breaks during Sunday's Super Bowl, but that's where it ended.
    Most of the spots run by more than a dozen dot.com companies, which poured millions into a one-shot campaign, were heavy on fun, but light on clarity and failed, at least initially, to produce the hoped-for results.
    "My personal assessment is that most of the dot.com ads fell short of what they should have done, which is educate people on why they should visit the site," said Charlene Li, an analyst with Forrester Research in Boston, which tracks Internet companies.
    About 17 dot.com companies, short on revenue, spent more than $2 million apiece for one 30-second commercial that ran during the Super Bowl. Just two Internet companies, Monster.com and Hotjobs.com, advertised last year.
    Web portal Yahoo! conducted an informal online poll of each of the ads Monday, asking people to vote for their favorite Super Bowl spot.
    By mid-afternoon Monday, the survey had ranked a commercial by AutoTrader.com as the most favorite, and three by computer.com as seventh, eighth and ninth. Other dot.coms ranked lower on the list.
    And a USA Today poll Monday revealed the dot.com commercials entertained viewers, but left many wondering about the real underlying message.
    One of the more successful ads, Li pointed out, was for Epidemic.com, which places ads in users' e-mails, because its message was extremely clear.
    "If you come to our site, you're going to get money," Li said. "You can't get a better motivation than that. My curiosity is piqued."
    Other ads, such as the one for Pets.com, an online vendor of pet products, entertained with its sock puppet dog mournfully singing as its master drove away, but failed to deliver the main message.
    "It was very entertaining, very cute, but it doesn't tell me why I should go to Pets.com instead of buying food from my veterinarian," Li said.
    The same went for spots from Ourbeginning.com, an online seller of wedding invitations, stationary and other paper products, which Li said featured fun commercials, but failed to tell viewers why it would be easier to buy invitations online than in a store.
    In a Friday interview, Michael Budowski, Ourbeginning.com's founder and chief executive officer, said the $4 million his company spent, with the help of angel investors, was simply one part of his overall marketing plan. And the exposure to more than 100 million viewers could not really fail, he said.
    But Li disagreed.
    "If you're going to be paying $3 million bucks, you'd better be getting something more than exposure," she said.
    If this year is any gauge, it will be the last time there will be an emphasis on the dot.com companies that advertise during the Super Bowl, Li said.
    And with a glut of Internet companies out there, it's inevitable that a culling and consolidation will occur in the near future. Back to top

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.