Ad Industry Vets Question Effectiveness of Dot-Com Super Bowl Spots

The thinkers behind some of the most memorable Super Bowl television spots — Monster.com‘s highly-acclaimed ad on last year’s Super Bowl broadcast, and the “1984” commercial that launched Apple‘s Macintosh — are questioning the effectiveness of buying a spot on the big game this year.

Recalling the great success of last year’s Monster.com spot, Edward Boches, the chief creative officer of Mullen Advertising, says, “one commercial on the Super Bowl somehow did everything you would want.”

It drove traffic, built the brand, and, Boches laughs, even drove the stock price up. “Clearly,” he said, “the success of Monster.com has been hard to duplicate.”

Dot-com companies, says Boches, should be asking themselves, “am I really going to be able to stand out in an environment in which we’re asking consumers to remember ten brand names that they’ve never heard of.”

The success of dot-com advertising is predicated on four factors, according to Boches. First, there should be latent brand awareness, which is easier with a bricks-and-mortar retailer or a brand with a long history. In addition, the value proposition should be unique, which is easier if the company is a first mover in its space.

Thirdly, the company needs to aggressively put its name out there. And finally, consumers need to understand, on an emotional level, what the dot-com company can do for them. Only the fourth, that emotional relevance, can be created by an ad agency.

Speaking at a Silicon Alley Breakfast Club panel discussion about dot-com advertising on prime time TV, Boches, along with Jay Chiat, the founder of Chiat/Day, described a landscape that has drastically changed since Monster.com’s ads debuted.

“A lot of what’s happening now with the Super Bowl is that it’s become more of a media event than an entertainment event,” says Chiat, who is credited with starting the mad advertising rush at the Super Bowl with the Orwellian “1984” Macintosh ad. If the media likes the ad, says Chiat, then it’s been successful.

Chiat questions conventional wisdom, which says that Super Bowl viewers are watching the ads, as much as the football game. “Most people are there because there’s a party going on,” says Chiat, “and they don’t even watch the ball game, much less the advertising.”

Chiat dodged questions, though, about the decision by his own company, Screaming Media, to drop its own plans for an ad in the Super Bowl. The company reportedly reconsidered when it discovered that there would be a dozen or so dot-com advertisers on this year’s game.

Dot-com advertisers are said to account for up to a third of the spots on this year’s Super Bowl, with each paying $2 million or more for a 30-second spot.

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