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Super Bowl ads return to offline giants

Football fans will see few ads for online companies during Sunday's Super Bowl, as traditional advertisers will reclaim commercial spots.

    Football fans settling into their sofas on Super Bowl Sunday won't see Pets.com's googley-eyed sock puppet or other dot-com highlights that dominated the commercial breaks two years ago.

    Only four online companies--Monster.com, HotJobs.com, Yahoo and E*Trade--will be lining up for this year's Super Bowl, a large drop from the 17 online companies that spent millions on commercial spots in 2000.

    The waning Super Bowl presence comes as no surprise since the Internet boom has died down to a mere echo. Still, the drop-off provides a cautionary tale about advertising dollars that were spent hastily to gain popularity. This year Super Bowl fans will see ads from established offline companies such as Pepsi, Levi's and Dockers.

    "The world is vastly different than two years ago," said Allen Weiner, vice president of Nielsen/NetRatings. "There was entrepreneurship fever, and it was viable to get name recognition, (but most dot-coms) realized that the ads in the Super Bowl did not meet their long-term objectives."

    In 2000, online companies comprised 40 percent of the advertisers during the game. But after the Internet downturn, many of the 2000 advertisers collapsed, including Pets.com, which spent $2.6 million on a Super Bowl advertisement. Later that year, it was unable to find a buyer or financing.

    Weiner said that despite heavy spending on Super Bowl ads, most dot-coms saw few long-lasting payoffs. He recalled that in 2000 many companies saw huge spikes in traffic to their Web sites a day after the football championship, but two weeks later, traffic to those sites took a nosedive.

    "Where we are today is far more of a conservative, mature approach to online advertising," Weiner said.