Top 10 ads score raves, not hits post-Super Bowl

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There's little correlation between an ad's popularity and Web site traffic, according to reports spotlighting results of this year's Super Bowl ads that included 17 dot-coms.

Only one dot-com wrangled its way into the top 10 most popular ads in Super Bowl XXXIV, according to results from a survey of more than 3,000 respondents from NPD Group, released today.

Only online brokerage E*Trade made the grade, garnering the votes of 214 respondents as their favorite ad. This placed the stock brokerage as the fourth most popular Super Bowl spot, following top three faves from Electronic Data Systems Corp.; Anheuser-Busch's Bud-weiser commercial about a dog's worst day; and Federal Express Corp. Pets.- com's Sock Puppet ad just missed top-10 status, weighing in at No. 11, according to the market research company.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, created E*Trade's ads. DDB Worldwide, Chicago, did the Budweiser spot, and Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, developed EDS' cowboy-and-cats commercial. BBDO Worldwide, New York, handles FedEx, while TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco, created Pets.com's Sock Puppet ad.

16% JUMP OVERALL

Overall, Super Bowl advertisers, both dot-coms and traditional marketers' Web sites, experienced a nearly 16% jump in unique audience numbers from Jan. 30 to Jan. 31, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Surprisingly, however, dot-coms whose Super Bowl spots did not make the most-popular list actually saw the highest traffic spikes following the game, according to research released last week by Media Metrix. Romac International's kforce.com (Grey Advertising, New York), OurBeginning.com (Bennett & Co., Orlando), Pets.com and HotJobs.com (McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich.) all fared well post-event.

Kforce's total unique visitors skyrocketed 27 times from the previous three-week average, from 4,000 to 108,000; OurBeginning.com's jumped nearly elevenfold, to 98,000; Pets.com's increased 311%, to 156,000; and HotJobs' rose 240%, to 282,000.

E*TRADE SEES DROP

In comparison, E*Trade, the only dot-com listed in NPD Group's top 10 most popular ads, actually saw its unique visitors drop 5.5% to 412,000. Oxygen Media's spot, a favorite among female viewers, according to NPD Group research, had a traffic spike of only 32% to 196,000, Media Metrix research found. Monster.com, HotJobs' rival, saw its traffic rise 4.5% to 414,000.

To be sure, most TV viewers didn't rush to the Web; ABC's Super Bowl broadcast was seen by 88.5 million people, up 6% from last year, but down 6% from the 1996 peak of 94.1 million viewers, Nielsen Media Research reported.

Perhaps a more important measure was viewers' ability to recall a Super Bowl spot. NPD Group found that three dot-coms -- WebMD, Pets.com and E*Trade -- all made its list of 10 most recalled commercials.

Kforce, meanwhile, scored tops in an analysis of which spots registered the biggest increase in purchase intent from before the game to after the ad appeared. In a study by polling company Penn, Schoen & Berland for ex-Coca-Cola Co. executive Sergio Zyman's MarketingMarketing.com, 0.9% of respondents said before the game that they would definitely use kforce; 7.4% after the game said they'd try it.

Several dot-coms, including Super Bowl newcomer Computer.com and veterans Monster and HotJobs, spent millions to prepare for an expected onslaught of traffic following the Super Bowl (AA, Jan. 17). Was it worth it? According to consultancy Keynote Systems, most sites avoided traffic jams.

Ironically, however, Computer.com -- despite its investment in back-end technology and advice from Monster.com President-CEO Jeff Taylor -- was one of nine sites Keynote identified as experiencing "noticeable performance degradation."

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