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3/1/99 - Super Bowel

Did you watch Super Bowl XXXIII? It was only a month ago. Remember any of the spots? The advertisers who paid $1.6 million per :30 sure hope you did. Particularly first time advertisers like Monster.com and HotJobs.com who bought time on the game to establish their fledgling brands.

You remember the Monster.com and HotJobs.com spots, don't you? One featured a security guard fantasizing about the perfect job. The other was a Nike knock-off with kids spouting corporate career ambitions.

So who ran what?

Well, I can't blame you if you draw a blank. In fact, I bet most people couldn't answer this question an hour after the game. That's a shame. These hot new Internet companies have relegated themselves to interchangeable commodities. That's because their spots are executions rather than brand-building campaigns.

Are these executions extendable? Maybe. But I really don't think they intended them to be. For example, the Hotjobs.com spot was a last minute substitution for a storyboard that was rejected by Fox for being "tasteless." It involved a zookeeper who accidentally becomes a human suppository for an elephant. The punchline was "Still stuck in the same old job?"

Besides being so general that it would work just as well for a classifieds section, it's not very campaignable either. I mean what other large mammals could they use? Whales? The security guard spot Hotjobs.com wound up with suggests a lot more possibilities.

Hotjobs.com was also fortunate in successfully spinning their Super Bowel ad into a publicity stunt. When the elephant storyboard was rejected, they trumpeted their indignation to the press. However, effective publicity stunts should be part of an integrated marketing campaign, which doesn't seem to be the case here.

(This situation is reminiscent of an ad Holiday Inn ran on the Bowl two years ago that used a transsexual at a class reunion as a way to announce a billion dollar renovation project. The spot sparked controversy and press coverage. For a while it seemed as if they would follow up with crossdressing contests and transsexual maids, but the ad was soon pulled in the interest of political correctness.)

Hotjobs.com's competitor, Monster.com, doesn't appear to have long range plans for their well- produced Super Bowl spot either. That is, besides entering it into awards shows. Was this ad supposed to be an event like Apple's "1984" Super Bowl spot? What's often forgotten by those who bet the farm on a Super Bowl spot, is that "1984" kicked off the Macintosh launch and was supported by full campaign throughout the year. It created excitement for the Mac and sustained it.

Now that 1999's Super Bowl newbies have blown a chunk of their annual budgets for 30 seconds of fame, they have the rest of the year to evaluate how well their investment paid off. My guess is that they'll soon realize that to believe brands can be built this way, you'd have to have your head shoved up an elephant.