Tech companies hope to score with Super Bowl ads

After several years of sitting on the sidelines, it appears more tech businesses are again willing to ante up for high-profile ads.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
4 min read
Tech companies hope to score with Super Bowl ads For domain registrar Go Daddy, running TV ads during the Super Bowl is like scoring a touchdown for its business.

Traffic on the company's site increased by 1,573 percent after its Super Bowl ads were broadcast last year, according to Comscore.

Granted, the company's provocative ads with humorous storylines and scantily clad women are certainly buzzworthy and memorable. The first 13 versions of its 2006 ad were rejected by the National Football League for being too racy. And the NFL cancelled the second showing of its 2005 Super Bowl ad, also for risque content, a move that grabbed headlines.

Memorable tech Super Bowl ads

"As a result of that, our market share jumped from 16 to 25 percent," said Bob Parsons, founder and chief executive of Go Daddy. "It's the one event per year where everyone watches for the commercials. If we run an edgy commercial we'll get noticed."

The company is back for year three and plans to run a 30-second ad in the first quarter, the fourth quarter and during Sunday's post-game show.

Go Daddy's not alone. A number of tech companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Sprint, Careerbuilder.com and Garmin are buying up pricey spots on the game of the year. After several years of sitting on the sidelines, it appears tech companies are again willing to ante up for high-profile ads.

Another three-year Super Bowl ad veteran is job search site Careerbuilder.com, which is running two 30-second spots during this year's game. The company saw a 30 percent jump in Web traffic after advertising during the game last year, said Cynthia McIntyre, senior director of advertising.

"It's the one event per year where everyone watches for the commercials."
--Bob Parsons, Go Daddy founder

"The Super Bowl is a perfect fit for us. It's prime job-seeking time and it's New Year's resolution time," said McIntyre. "Those people talking at the water cooler the next day are target customers."

While a 30-second spot can run as high as $2.6 million, according to published reports, advertisers say they can more than make up for the payout in raised brand awareness and an increase in customers. "We got feedback from our sales force that they had made appointments based (solely) on our Super Bowl ads," McIntyre said.

Apparently, the price is negotiable. Sprint, which is a sponsor of the NFL and a major advertiser on CBS stations, was able to leverage those relationships to get a discount, said Angie Read, a spokeswoman for Sprint. "We were significantly under the standard sticker price," she said.

None of the companies interviewed would disclose what it paid for its ads or what percentage of its advertising budget the Super Bowl campaign represented.

Sprint had run a Super Bowl ad in the mid-1990s and then took a decade off before returning in 2006, after becoming an NFL sponsor and after merging with Nextel.

"The Super Bowl is a real appointment TV day. Just as many people go to watch the advertisements," Read said. "It's a great opportunity to get your message in front of millions of people who are actually paying attention."

Ads for the Web
Tech heavyweight Hewlett-Packard will be advertising in the Super Bowl for the first time this year.

"HP is treating the Super Bowl ad as more than just the marketing on the big game. The bigger story will be the use of the Internet," said David Roman, vice president of marketing communications for HP's Personal Systems Group.

Viewers will be able to see HP's ad--which features the burly custom motorcycle maker of the popular American Chopper reality TV show--along with behind-the-scenes footage and product tie-ins on HP's Web site after the game.

"The impact of the Web this year is new to us," said Roman. "People will look at the Chopper ad through the Web at least as much as on TV."

Careerbuilder.com and some of the other advertisers will be replaying their ads on their sites as well. In addition, YouTube, AOL, Yahoo and MSN will also be showing Super Bowl ads. Meanwhile, Plaxo, Meebo, Meez and RockYou.com and other start-ups scared off by the sticker price of a Super Bowl ad are instead running their own low-cost versions on YouTube.

One Super Bowl newbie, global positioning system maker Garmin International, is even pleased with just the amount of pre-game buzz it is getting because of its upcoming ad.

"The name of the game right now in an emerging technology like GPS is to have name recognition. We think that with 90 million people out there watching the Super Bowl, that is going to buy us some great name recognition," said Garmin spokesman Ted Gartner. "So when they walk into a big-box store and they see the 'GPS' aisle they'll think of Garmin."