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 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 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 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, and, 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 as the most favorite, and three by as seventh, eighth and ninth. Other dot.coms ranked lower on the list.
    And a USA Today poll Monday revealed the commercials entertained viewers, but left many wondering about the real underlying message.
    One of the more successful ads, Li pointed out, was for, 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, 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 instead of buying food from my veterinarian," Li said.
    The same went for spots from, 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,'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 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


Dot.coms ready Bowl game - Jan. 28, 2000