One of my fondest memories of the Dot Com era was the hype preceding Super Bowl 34 in 2000, which aired 10 years ago. I couldn’t tell you who won the game, or for that matter, even who played, but I will never forget the advertisements. Super Bowl 34 was pivotal in the Dot Com era because by January 2000 it became apparent to many that the newfound riches of the Internet boom would not be enjoyed by all startups. Many market sectors such as online retail, stock trading and advertising were significantly overcapitalized relative to near-term market demand. In the weeks before the game, we did not realize how close we were to the end. But it was just 45 days later that the Dot Com bubble burst as the NASDAQ peaked at 5048 on March 10th. The stock market and the economy had been riding a wave of irrational exuberance for several years that many believed would never end. Of course it did and most people remember the fall-out from the Internet bubble more than the 1999 euphoria that consumed the world.
CFOs Talking Up Super Bowl Ads
During the Dot Com era I was working at a web hosting company called Digex as the Director of Product Management. Much like many web hosting companies, Digex was targeting “web-centric” companies, which was a politically correct term for Dot Coms. I will never forget sitting on a customer call in January 2000 talking to the CEO of a web-centric prospect that one of our California sales representatives was targeting. The dot com had requested a relatively large hardware infrastructure to support their new web presence. As a result, we had to make a significant capital investment to purchase the servers and storage devices for the customer. There was a question as to the company’s financial viability and credit rating. As a startup we were not certain whether the dot com would be able to pay monthly hosting service fees long enough to recover our hardware investment. The CEO was explaining the startup’s backing by several venture capital firms, which was a relatively undifferentiated story at the time. And to add more persuasion to his case, he stated “We bought a Super Bowl ad.”
As I reflect upon it ten years later it seems almost incredulous that a company’s CEO would reference an upcoming SuperBowl ad as a measure of financial viability. But it was a sign of the times. During the second half of 1999, there were numerous companies whose entire business models were based upon a strategy to gaining public exposure through a memorable Super Bowl ad. In fact, Super Bowl 34 in January 2000 featured seventeen dot-com companies that each paid over two million dollars for a thirty-second spot. By contrast, in January 2001, just three dot-coms bought advertising spots during Super Bowl XXXV. Perhaps, Steve Hall, an advertising and marketing veteran who founded Adrants.com said it best “There were a couple of years there — 1998, 1999 and 2000 — where the landscape of ads were unlike any we have ever seen before, or have seen since.”
A Tribute to the Dot Com Ads of Super Bowl 34
This weekend marks 10 year anniversary of Super Bowl 34 so I have included a few of the more prominent ads from 2000 below as a tribute to the Dot Com era.
E-Trade Wasted $2 Million Bucks
Pets.Com If You Leave Me Now
As for the game – the St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans 23-16. I had to look it up on ESPN’s web site.