By kickoff time for Super Bowl XXXIV on Jan. 30, there could be close to a dozen dot-coms advertising their wares.
Already upstart companies such as Angeltips.com and OurBeginning.com have joined repeaters Hotjobs.com and Monster.com in anteing up an average $2 million for a 30-second spot in the big game.
Britannica.com, E*Trade and kforce.com have confirmed they are in the Super Bowl as well, with AutoTrader.com, OnMoney and WorkSeek.comstill deciding.
Typical of the big plans some dot-coms have for Super Sunday is OurBeginning.com, an online provider of personal stationery for weddings and other significant life events. The Orlando-based company is spending more than $3 million that day for exclusive sponsorship of 30 minutes of ABC's pre-game festivities, in which it will air four spots, and for a commercial in the third quarter of the game itself.
The company is running a contest on its site, asking visitors what kind of Super Bowl ad they want the company to do. Choices range from "hysterically funny" to "warm and fuzzy" to "over-the-edge." Disney i.d.e.a.s., Lake Buena Vista, Fla., will handle creative.
Kforce.com, a job site, started advertising on TV last month, and plans four spots on Super Sunday; two pre-game, one just before kickoff and one in the third quarter. Grey Advertising, New York, handles creative.
Angeltips.com is a business-to-business site-it helps Internet entrepreneurs gain access to investors. The company is running one pre-game spot and a commercial in the fourth quarter of the game. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, handles.
With so many dot-coms on Super Sunday, some media observers said they'll just become like wallpaper to viewers.
"The dot-coms are lemmings following each other to the Super Bowl like it's the Holy Grail of marketing," said John Caplan, senior VP-marketing for About.com, New York. "I think we're going to see a backlash against it," he said, adding those who advocate pushing Super Bowl advertising might just be more "interested in building their own brands" rather than that of their clients.
Countered Michael E. Budowski, CEO of OurBeginning.com, "It doesn't really matter how many dot-coms there are [on the Super Bowl]. It comes down to the quality of the commercial . . . [and] is it going to wow the people."
Likewise, Christopher DiDomizio, VP-marketing for kforce.com parent Romac International, said the right, edgy creative can make a dot-com stand out.
One interesting commercial during the Super Bowl will be in the second quarter for Oxygen Media, the new women's Internet site and cable channel backed by Oprah Winfrey, Gerry Laybourne and other notable women.
Creative from Mullen, Wenham, Mass., is still under development, and said to promote the Oxygen brand, network and Web site. ABC, which is broadcasting the Super Bowl, is an investor in Oxygen and a co-owner of Oxygen's main competitor, Lifetime Television.
"The Lifetime people are furious that we've sold time on the game to Oxygen, and don't want us to allow creative to promote the Oxygen cable network," said one ABC insider, who added that the issue is being debated "at high levels here."
Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona, Alice Z. Cuneo, Dave Guilford and Chuck Ross