Roundup: Dot-Coms Take to the Field During Super Bowl

After a sharp decline in their ranks during the past year, dot-com advertisers are again drifting to the Super Bowl, with four signed up to purchase airtime during Sunday’s big game, which airs on Fox.

Three of those four, E*Trade, HotJobs, and Monster.com, are Super Bowl veterans. The fourth, Yahoo, makes its inaugural appearance, which comes, ironically, after a controversial move involving two other advertisers — outbidding Monster.com’s parent, TMP Worldwide, for HotJobs.

E*Trade

In addition to again serving as sponsor for the Super Bowl XXXVI Halftime Show, the company, now officially known as E*Trade Group, will be using the big game to launch a campaign introducing its new name, E*Trade Financial, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. But we’ll still recognize E*Trade’s advertising. The company will be trotting out an old favorite — its dancing monkey, designed by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based online brokerage said the ad would be in keeping with its previous monkey spots. In 1999, one of the company’s spots showed a monkey dancing to “La Cucaracha,” while two guys clapped. “Well, we just wasted two million bucks,” said the voiceover. “What are you going to do with your money?”

The following year, the company ran two spots, one of which reprised the monkey. In that execution, the primate led a hoarse through a desolate, Planet of the Apes-like landscape of defunct dot-coms, pausing to shed an Iron Eyes Cody-like tear for what appeared to be the departed mascot of Pets.com — a tongue-in-cheek reminder that E*Trade was one of the few dot-coms still standing. The tagline? “It’s your money. Invest wisely.”

Expect more of the same humor and slyness from Goodby and co., perhaps best known as the creators of the “Got Milk?” television campaign.

HotJobs

New York-based career site HotJobs is also relying on its agency from the last Super Bowl, Brand Architecture Partners (formerly Weiss Stagliano Partners).

Over the course of its Super Bowl advertising, HotJobs changed pace several times. For the first two years, ads designed by McCann-Erickson took a lighthearted approach to job hunting. In 1999, the company’s ad showcased a bored security guard dreaming of a better job. In 2000, the site’s ad featured a smooth-talking hand (at the time, HotJobs’ logo, voiced by actor Samuel L. Jackson) discussing the benefits of having the “hottest hand on the Web,” that is, having access to the usefulness of HotJobs.

But in last year’s ad, HotJobs took a more poignant, metaphorical approach, showing a marble escaping the confines of a desk toy to make its way onto a playground. The message? Do what you want to do.

Now, the site’s newest ad will expand on that theme. The ad, “Parrot,” features a job interview, during which the prospective employee mimics everything said by the interviewer. As a result, in the spot’s last scene, the new hire has become a court stenographer. Tagline: “Find your fit.”

Monster.com

TMP Worldwide’s Monster.com tapped Arnold Worldwide to develop a new campaign, titled “Never Settle,” the first ad from which aired during this season’s Bowl Championship Series.

“Fit Guy,” the second ad from that campaign and the spot that will run during the Super Bowl, is reminiscent of HotJobs’ more reverential tone toward finding a job.

The ad features Olympic athletes performing at their best. But when the athletes return home, they’re confronted with the enormity of finding a job. (Not surprisingly, Maynard, Mass.-based Monster.com is also a major sponsor of this month’s Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.)

Previously, Monster.com’s ads have ranged from the philosophical to the wacky. In 2000, the company’s “The Road Not Taken,” quoted Whitman and waxed metaphorical. Monster.com’s 1999 ad, “When I Grow Up,” on the other hand, poked at the funny bone, with children professing: “when I grow up, I want to be a yes man … I want to be forced into early retirement.” Spots from 2001 continued the humorous approach, showing a dead man smiling after years with a meaningful career, and a young employee delighting in the smell of his first business cards.

Like E*Trade, Monster.com is hoping to use the game to go back and tweak elements of its brand. The company said it plans to go by the name “Monster” — dropping the “.com” in a now-common practice by Internet firms (including the publisher of this site, INT Media Group, formerly internet.com).

Additionally, Monster.com paid for an additional 30-second spot to air during the game that would give former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani an opportunity to thank America for its support following Sept. 11. The firm said that in terms of corporate branding, the black-and-white ad would feature only the tagline, “This tribute was made possible by Monster.com.”

Yahoo

This year’s Super Bowl marks Yahoo’s first buy during the Big Game, but by no means is the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Web portal a stranger to television advertising.

Yahoo plans to use its 30-second, second-quarter spot to unveil a new ad in its humorous, long-running “Do You Yahoo?” campaign. Ads from that campaign, which began in 1996, have concentrated either on branding the portal as a whole or on specific features, like Yahoo Shopping or Yahoo Personals.

A spokesperson for Yahoo said its newest ad, “Dolphin,” would focus more on branding the portal as a whole. The spot was shot on location on the Micronesian island of Palau. During the ad, a traveler seeks solitude and relaxation, and ultimately finds it on the island while befriending a dolphin.

The new spot was designed by longtime agency Black Rocket.

As intriguing as this year’s spots will no doubt be, it’s also notable that Super Bowl XXXVI is seeing a return of dot-com advertisers. In 2000, 17 dot-coms paid their way into the game, but following the stock market tumble that started later that year, only three made it back.

Now, however, some of those advertisers say they’ve been wise to stick it out all along.

“Those that study economics know that a downturn in the economy is an opportunity to invest more in your brand — to pull away from competitors and be heard above the clutter, because there is less clutter,” said Marc Karasu, vice president of marketing and advertising at HotJobs.

Additionally, there’s the price factor that comes into play in a down year for advertising.

“It’s a buyer’s market … which means it’s an opportunity for those that feel they have a good reason to be there,” said Karasu, who said the site paid less than it did last year. “And one could make the argument that it’s an unofficial American holiday, and you’ve got an audience that isn’t only accepting the advertisements, but looking forward to them. … There’s a value associated with that as well.”

Added Connie Dotson, chief communications and knowledge officer at E*Trade, “The Super Bowl is the ideal venue through which E*Trade can reach a large global audience in a forum where they are focused and attentive to the ads. E*Trade’s sponsorship of the Halftime show and advertising in prior Super Bowls has proven effective in reaching customers, further advancing E*Trade’s brand and business.”

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