Internet research companies plan to measure the "watercooler effect" of Super Bowl XXXIX ads by capturing sentiments as they bubble up within the loose collection of diarylike personal Web sites collectively known as the "blogosphere."
Cincinnati-based Intelliseek, for one, plans to monitor positive and negative commentary about commercials in more than 3.5 million blogs, charging advertisers upward of $20,000 for its intelligence. That's about 1 percent of the $2.4 million price tag for a 30-second spot during the game this year, up from $2.3 million last year.
Such research could eventually offer real-time assessment and feedback on the reception and success of ad campaigns, industry experts said, and extend the influence of an upstart medium that has already placed its mark on mainstream news publishers and broadcasters.
"Blogs are a real-world temperature gauge as to what's really going on out there," said Tim Hanlon, senior vice president at advertising-media company Starcom IP. "You've got big media at one end and the citizen's media at the other, and the collision between those diametrically opposed approaches to messaging will be very intriguing."
The Super Bowl is not only the celebratory end to the football season, but it's also the congratulatory salute to ad creativity in the form of high-priced and oft-outsized commercials. People commonly skip bathroom breaks in favor of couch time with the commercials, just to chat about them in the office on Monday. With the dawn of the Internet, stand-out ads, such as Reebok's "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker," have enjoyed unparalleled postgame audiences online, too.
This year, bloggers could upstage the advertisers, with an expected outpouring of commentary from millions of self-styled media critics. Although it's still unclear what impact this immediate feedback will have on the reception of ad spots, advertisers are closely watching the phenomenon.
"Big media can be held in check by media from the streets, i.e., blogs, and simultaneously this grassroots type of media can also be the source of new popular content," Hanlon said.
Buying a multimillion-dollar Super Bowl spot is often a vanity play by deep-pocketed advertisers that are attempting to make the biggest impression possible among the largest television audience of the year. , an all-time high of 144 million Americans watched the Super Bowl, according to Nielsen Media Research. The roster of advertisers typically includes PepsiCo, Ford Motors, FedEx, Frito-Lay, McDonald's and Visa. But during the dot-com heyday, when they nicknamed the playoffs the Dot-Com Bowl, now defunct Internet companies including Pets.com and Webvan sought to register on the mass media radar.
Booming e-commerce and a rebound in Internet advertising have created a reversal of fortune for many dot-coms. But online companies have proven reluctant to make expensive gambles on the Super Bowl this year.
America Online, for example, was a first-time, promoting its speedy broadband service with commercials starring reality TV stars from the Discovery Channel. This year, however, AOL has made a "change in its marketing strategy" to opt out of game advertising, according to a company representative. Instead the company will advertise online to promote its Internet poll of the best commercials during the big game.
Not to miss out on the Net's self-publishing craze, the company also will host several big-game blogs, or what it calls "pigskin bloggers."
Monster.com, a jobs site, has bowed out of the game ads this year after a consistent presence after the dot-com bust. CareerBuilder.com will take its place alongside domain registration service GoDaddy.com as the only two Internet companies advertising. CareerBuilder purchased two 30-second spots, while GoDaddy sprang for just one.
GoDaddy.com CEO Bob Parsons started his own blog in December and has weighed in with a lengthy explanation of the company's decision.
In an interview, he said he'll likely pay less attention to the blogs and more attention to his Web site's traffic following the game, given that the company is advertising to gain registrations for Internet addresses. "As my daddy used to say, 'The proof in the pudding is in the eating,'" Parsons said.
In another technology promotion, Motorola is hosting a first-ever wireless media center. While the cell phone maker is not advertising during the game, it has set up a guerrilla marketing campaign that lets Super Bowl attendees try out Motorola Bluetooth wireless headsets that connect to cell phones.
Intelliseek, via its site BlogPulse.com, plans to monitor the hoopla up to and surrounding the Super Bowl. The company also has recruited 50 enthusiastic bloggers to actively critique the commercials so that it can send a feed to its advertising clients.
"People are now going to the chat rooms and especially the blogs to log their feelings about everything," said Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer of Intelliseek, which has worked for brands including Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Ford, Sony and Gateway. "Why are you spending that much money if you don't know the buzz it builds?"