In 1997, Super Bowl XXXII and its broadcast network Fox welcomed a commercial from a novel ad category: dot-com companies.
"Buy, finance, lease and insure cars and trucks at no cost on the internet at autobytel.com," the voice of Leonard Nimoy told viewers in the ad:
Auto-By-Tel and agency RBI returned to the Super Bowl in 1998 with "Come As You Are," in which the protagonist still apparently needed to explain to her cat (standing in for the audience), "O.K. Camille, we're on the internet."
Though it would take until 2003 for the company to turn a profit, Auto-By-Tel would also outlast many of startups that bet big on Super Bowl ads in 2000.
That was the year the Super Bowl became the "Dot-Com Bowl," helping ABC boost the sticker price for a 30-second spot to $2.1 million from $1.6 million just a year earlier.
The following year the fun was all over, with a collapse in confidence among investors leading to more realistic appraisals of many companies' prospects. Dot-commers on the ad roster comprised just HotJobs.com, E-Trade and Monster.com. E-Trade surveyed the wreckage with its classic 2001 Super Bowl ad "Ghost Town."
From the files of the Super Bowl Ad Archive. Previously: Stars in the Super Bowl (Before They Were Famous).