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ABC’s Super ads: $3 mil for 30 secs

Tech companies investing in game

The demand for 30-second spots on the January 30 Super Bowl has become so ferocious that ABC will harvest $3 million apiece for the few it expects to sell in the next six weeks.

ABC has — technically — already sold all 61 of the spots within the game. But sources say the current scatter market is so hot that ABC’s salespeople will buy out some of the existing advertisers, who paid less than $2 million for a spot, and then sell the newly freed spots to the highest bidder.

At a record average price of $2.3 million a spot, ABC has already grossed a staggering $150 million or so for the Super Bowl, according to one source.

As much as $40 million of that total is coming from dot.com companies that are willing to pay through both nostrils to grab the attention of the 125-million-plus people who watch the Super Bowl, traditionally the highest-rated network of the broadcast year.

“When you start to look at a $3 million price, anything with that many numbers, you’ve got to reach more than just a target,” said Jon Mandel, co-managing director and chief negotiating officer at MediaComm. “The dot.coms are trying to reach several different audiences at once, so it works for them.”

Retailer Computer.com, for example, will spend $3 million on three spots: one during the Super Bowl’s fourth quarter and two during pre-game show coverage.

Computer.com CEO Mike Zapolin said he chose to spend much of his marketing budget on the game upon the advice of Monster.com’s Jeff Taylor, an investor in Computer.com. Monster made waves last year when it became one of the first dot.coms to advertise during the big game.

Zapolin said the Computer.com spots will poke fun at the growing crop of irreverent dot.com advertisements.

“It’s one of the only times in the entire television experience that you’re watching those commercials from an entertainment standpoint,” Zapolin said. “Since I know I’m going to use that time to the best of my ability, I would pay $5 million if they told me to.”

Computers.com hopes to target women, seniors and the investment community. The Super Bowl spot is a key element in the company’s plan to go public by next summer.

Zapolin, who will spend around $500,000 to create the ad, said he avoided placing spots in the early January college bowl games in case Y2K wreaks havoc and gives the computer industry a host of public relations problems.

Other dot.coms joining the Super Bowl party include Angeltips.com, DowJones.com, Kforce.com, OurBeginning.com, Pets.com and Screamingmedia.com. Pioneers HotJobs.com and Monster.com will make return appearances.

Pets.com plans to showcase its Pets.com Sock Puppet in three spots that will run before, during and after the game.

“We see it as efficient investment,” said John Hommeyer, vice president of marketing. “The sock puppet allows us to break through the clutter.”

Traditional advertisers include Anheuser-Busch, BMW, Buena Vista Pictures, Federal Express, Frito Lay, Pepsi-Cola, Titan Sports and Visa.

ABC sources say that there are still a few spots available in the pre-game show for advertisers that the network can’t accommodate in the game itself.

Dot.coms remain the fastest-growing category among advertisers in most media. Competitive Media Reporting estimates that dot.coms will spend $1.2 billion in all categories in 1999, up from $279 million in 1997 and $546 million in 1998.

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