Passing on Super Sunday

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E-business software vendor MicroStrategy Inc. is feeling less super than it did last January, when it had a soaring stock price and was preparing its first-ever Super Bowl ad.

Since the Super Bowl spot, Micro-Strategy, like many Internet-oriented businesses, has endured its share of trouble, including being forced to restate its financial results and seeing its losses mount even as revenues increased.

"Last year we used the Super Bowl as a broadcast venue to introduce the concept of ‘narrowcasting’ and personal one-to-one messaging to millions, which is what our software does,” said Michael Quint, director-public relations, who acknowledged that MicroStrategy’s marketing budget has shrunk and the company is now doing more narrowcasting.

MicroStrategy joins fellow 2000 b-to-b Super Bowl advertisers Volvo Trucks North America Inc., and Dow Jones & Co. Inc. in forsaking Super Bowl XXXV, to be held Jan. 28, 2001, in front of an anticipated U.S. television audience of 125 million. Nonetheless, several other b-to-b advertisers from the 2000 game remain convinced that shelling out an average of $2.2 million for a 30-second Super Bowl spot is a good investment.

Back in the game

Electronic Data Systems Corp., Federal Express Corp., and will make encore appearances. Accenture, the soon-to-be-renamed Andersen Consulting, will make its first appearance, spending a portion of its $175 million rebranding campaign on four Super Bowl spots.

EDS will reprise its 2000 appearance with an ad that builds on its "Cat herders” spot. "The ad more than pays for itself from the press that we get,” said LaWanda Burrell, VP-global advertising.

"It’s also the Super Bowl of advertising,” said Steve Pacheco, manager of advertising for FedEx, a perennial Super Sunday advertiser. The company, which plans to launch a new campaign in January, sees its Super Bowl ads as building on its "NFL Air and Ground Attack” promotion, which has run since September.

The battle between HotJobs and Monster, two leading online job recruitment sites, has become a Super Bowl tradition. Indeed, 2001 will mark the third straight year the companies will go head to head during the game.

During Super Bowl Sunday 2000, HotJobs said its traffic was three times higher than any other day in the company’s history. But because online recruiting firms actually generate revenue from corporations using their services, a more important statistic for HotJobs is that more than 80 of the Fortune 100 now use the company’s services.

Monster will also return to Super Sunday with four 30-second spots, two of them during the pre-game show. Monster’s return follows a superb performance last year that generated 4.4 million job searches in the 24-hour period following the game, compared with 2.2 million job searches in a similar period after the 1999 game.

Another recruiting firm that ran a Super Bowl ad in 2000 will pass on the upcoming game. Inc. used the Super Bowl to promote its name change from Romac International. "With an established brand name now, we don’t need the big splash that the Super Bowl provided,” said Ken Pierce, Kforce’s CMO.

Volvo Trucks generated an impressive response with its Super Bowl ads from 1998 through 2000, but the company will not run a spot during the upcoming game. "We’ve shifted focus to other areas of marketing communications,” said Phil Romba, Volvo Trucks public relations manager.

Despite boosting subscribers to The Wall Street Journal interactive edition from 375,000 to 438,000 in the immediate wake of its 2000 ad, Dow Jones is sitting on the sidelines during Super Bowl XXXV. "It went very well, although it’s not the kind of thing you do every day,” said Richard Tofel, VP-corporate communications.

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