What if they threw a Super Bowl and nobody came? Ayear changes everything in the ad world.

Cat rustling, 10 months after America learned about it for the first time, is still a viable business.

The advertisement for EDS.com was one of the most humorous of the spots aired during the Jan. 30 Super Bowl that saw computer-related ads occupying 25 of the 82 spots, or 30%.

Many of the ads were criticized for vagueness, EDS among them, and few have seen their way into a heavy rotation during the year. Super Sunday saw Muhammad Ali, Christopher Reeve and the Mountain Dew bicyclists as spokesmen, yet all of them have faded to black.

The cat rustlers, however, have become a staple on sporting events. Not as ubiquitous as Budweiser’s “wassup guys,” of course, but certainly more prevalent than Britannica.com’s “coin toss” ad.

Advertising executives are not anticipating an influx of dot-com advertising for Super Bowl XXXV. As the NFL season was completing its third week, a CBS spokesman said about 60% of the ad inventory had been sold. Prices are around $2.4 million per 30 seconds.

“It’s a healthy (advertising) marketplace,” he noted, adding that the CBS is not pinning any hopes on a late infusion of dot-com ads. And there are only so many spots available — last year, only six movies were advertised, a significant drop from years past.

The NFL championship game in 2001 will benefit from a much stronger advertising market than a year ago. CBS, advertising observers agree, attracts far fewer dot-com advertising dollars than ABC, the network that broadcast this year’s Super Bowl. After all, who’s more likely to be online — Rudy or Dharma?

ABC was selling late inventory for as much as $2 million for 30 seconds. In the post-Nasdaq swoon, many dot-coms don’t have that kind of cash anymore. Here’s a look at what has happened to the dot-com companies, many of which were unknowns nine months ago, that took out Super Spots to pitch their wares.

Among the publicly traded companies:

  • EDS.com, a business solutions concern, has seen its stock drop from $71.86 after the Super Bowl to $47-plus in mid-September. It was, however, on the upswing from a low of $38.92 in early July. The company did not keep up with Wall Street expectations though it still has its believers.

  • E*trade (etrade.com) boldly proclaimed that it wasted $2 million on an ad with a dancing chimp in a garage during Super Sunday. Since the St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans, E*trade has been named best of the Web in the online broker category by Forbes.com and rated No. 1 among online investing sites six times in eight quarters by Gomez Advisors’ Internet Broker Scorecard.

  • Lifeminders.com, an e-mail service, aired what they called the “worst commercial on the Super Bowl” and has continued its sports partnerships by grabbing the designation of “official provider of electronic newsletters to Olympics.com.” The service has 18 million members and expected to build off its Sydney service. Since its Super Spot aired, its stock rose $43.25 to more than $72 in March but dropped as low as $20 in September.

  • Pets.com has turned out some of the most humorous ads on TV but its stock has been no laughing matter. Since it went public in February, the stock has gone nowhere but down from about $9 to less than a buck during September.

  • The Bertelsmann e-Commerce Group acquired the troubled CDNow, which ran a joint spot with Pizza Hut, paying $3 per share. A merger with Sony and Time Warner had been terminated earlier in the year. The company’s stock has dropped from $11.44 on Feb. 1 to just under $3 in early September.

    Others have mainly stuck to their guns with the occasional splash:

  • In early fall, E-stamp was offering $50 in free postage for anyone who signs up for their $49.99 starter kit.

  • Job-placement service Monster.com has bought a blimp and become a presence at major sporting events.

  • Oxygen.com launched in February and has been heavily criticized for content and its inability to build clearances on cable systems.

  • Media Metrix, a leader in Internet and digital media measurement, ranked Onmoney.com, touted as “the Web’s first interactive financial manager,” in its top 10 list of newcomer Web sites.

And hidden among the rest of the bunch that shelled out significant cash for

Super Sunday — Ourbeginning.com; kForce.com; Hotjobs.com; Autotrader.com; Epidemic.com and Tornadotravel.com — was Britannica.com, offering the one service football fans need most in the 2000 season: A translation of comments from the mouth of Monday Night Football host Dennis Miller.

Though underpublicized, Britannica.com supplies a weekly, quarter-by-quarter rundown of every one of Miller’s cultural and historical references during the week’s telecast. A breakdown of the Patriots-Jets game included explanations of “the house of Plantagenet,” high jumper Dick Fosbury and the Thin White Duke, aka David Bowie.

Deep down, don’t we all wonder if the relationship between New York Jets head coach Al Groh and New England’s king Patriot Bill Belichick is more Freudian or Oedipal?

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