For one brief cultural moment, little-known start-ups, often based on business plans flimsier than a Brett Favre retirement announcement but inexplicably flush with venture capital, occupied the most valuable advertising space in the history of the world. Super Bowl XXXIV, pitting the Tennessee Titans against the St. Louis Rams on January 31, 2000, was going to be their moment to break through to consumers and vault to the heights of the new e-commerce economy.
With the benefit of 10 years of hindsight, of course, it represents the moment when these companies had reached their frothy pinnacle. Most of the more than a dozen dot-coms that paid more than $2 million for 30-second Super Bowl ads – such as Computer.com, Epidemic.com and OurBeginning.com – failed to catch on, and Pets.com became the Poster Sock-Puppet of empty Silicon Valley hype.
Ten years down the road, most venture-backed companies are more concerned with keeping costs down and proving they can actually make money than they are in blowing wads of investor cash on TV commercials. One exception is massively funded vacation rental service HomeAway.com, which is using the upcoming Super Bowl XLIV to show its first national ad and launch a yearlong campaign centered on Chevy Chase and the rest of the fictional Griswold family of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” movie fame.
“Consumer awareness of vacation rentals is still low, even though it’s one of the fastest growing segments of online travel,” says Brian Sharples, founder and chief executive officer of HomeAway, in a statement announcing the ad. “We’re going to use the Super Bowl broadcast to launch an exciting campaign highlighting the benefits of vacation rentals to reach more than 100 million people.”