The "creatives" on Madison Avenue are gearing up for one of their hottest annual industry events: next weekend's Super Bowl Sunday. And the ad men and women are watching like hawks to see which dot-com vendors pony up big bucks for their 30 seconds of TV commercial fame--and whether their efforts pay off.
Not only the advertising community, but also other dot-com watchers will be tuning in, so as to ascertain if TV is the best medium for dot-commers to attempt to differentiate themselves. So, will the 8 percent to 10 percent of viewers who claim they'll be watching the Super Bowl for the ads fall into the same category as the folks who claim they read Playboy for the ads? There's one difference, say the experts; the ad-attentive Super Bowl watcher is not a myth.
According to market watchers at Jupiter Communications, the jury is still out, regarding the best way for dot-com companies to build brand awareness. As a result, the impact of TV advertising on Web traffic is a metric worth watching.
At a New York Silicon Alley iBreakfast Club presentation on Wednesday, Patrick Keane, Jupiter's director of online-advertising strategies, noted that 57 percent of what drives consumer traffic to Web sites is "word of mouth." TV is a good means for established brands to advertise Keane says, but is still mostly unproven for dot-com firms, whether they are attempting to drive traffic and/or reinforce their fledgling brands.
The Dirty Dozen?
Last year, Monster.com, HotJobs.com and Victoria's Secret (plugging its online fashion show site) took the Super Bowl ad plunge. But this year, at least a dozen dot-com companies--including the Monster.com job site, and Oxygen.com, a women's interest site, among other, as-yet-unnamed advertisers--are expected to take their best shots at grabbing mind and market share during the Super Bowl.
Not every dot-com company wants or needs to debut during prime time. Last year, dot-com companies spent an estimated $4 billion on advertising, says Edward Boches, chief creative officer for Mullen Advertising, the firm that handles advertising for Monster.com, Northern Light, LendingTree.com and other dot-com companies. TV ads were dwarfed by online/portal advertising, as well as more traditional forms of advertising, such as print newspaper and magazine ads.
And TV's not necessarily the ultimate dot-com vehicle. As noted by The New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliot, ABC has not released a final line-up of advertisers. But at least two or three dot-com companies are said to be trying to wriggle their ways out of their Super Bowl contracts, Elliot and others say. Elliot says that several months ago, ABC insisted that dot-com Super Bowl advertisers--but not any other Super Sunday advertisers--pay for their ads up front. As a result, some dot-coms have decided they can't or won't be able to do so, he says.
"The success of Monster and HotJobs last year made it [Super Bowl advertising] look like a good idea," adds Boches. "But half way through last year, the rumor was about 50 percent of the Super Bowl ads would be from dot-coms. Companies are now wondering if they'll be able to stand out. Is this really the smartest way to spend $3 or $4 million?"
Four Must-HavesBoches says that Mullen has isolated four variables that seem to determine whether or not a dot-com's ad campaign and business models will be successful:
- First, a firm must have latent brand awareness.
- It must also have a uniqueness in it business proposition. "It's too late to be the next online company selling cosmetics or computers, unless you have something special to contribute," Boches notes.
- Dot-coms must have a substantial "share of voice." As Boches explains, "The flurry has raised the entry price. Dot-coms need to go after a narrower target audience who can help them build brands."
- Finally, dot-coms need "emotional relevance." Instead of advertising itself as a site with thousands of job listings, Monster.com built its brand by appealing to people's rights to a fulfilling career. Nike, Oxygen and other sites are following similar strategies.