Sure, the commercials during the Super Bowl are often more memorable than the game itself, but that sometimes doesn't mean much to the companies behind them. Tech companies, especially, are notorious for debuting popular ads during the Big Game only to find themselves wallowing in the ash heap of history, forgotten. You have to wonder how companies big enough to afford a Super Bowl spot could fail. Were things going so well that these dopes could really afford to spend $100,000 per second (today's price) letting the world know about themselves?
In a word, no. Alas, hindsight is $3,000,000/$3,000,000 in both eyes. We found the best (or worst) examples of those irrationally exuberant companies, many just riding for a fall, others under some kind of delusional spell. A lot of them were part of the dot-com craze, which is coming up fast on its 10th anniversary. We dug up their most embarrassing expenditure: the insanely expensive Super Bowl ad.
8. EDS (2000)
This ad is arguably one of the best, funniest Super Bowl spots ever produced. Even so, it wasn't long until data services giant EDS was bought out by HP. Maybe it really is way too difficult to herd cats.
7. ESPN Mobile (2006)
Blanketing the nation with ads, including this one aired during 2006's Super Bowl, only lured a handful of takers for this phone featuring sports scores from ESPN. Competing against 175 other mobile virtual network providers (MVNO), the ESPN advertisers forgot to tell prospective customers one key fact: Where do you get these phones? Eight months later, the answer to that question was finally clear: nowhere.
6. Ourbeginning.com (2000)
Do you really need the help of an online business to announce your personal events to the world? Maybe if a momentous moment in your life is that important, a traditional method might suffice, such as an engraved invitation. If not, you could just send a cheap email blast. OurBeginning.com met its end quickly later in 2000, when its spamming announcements were universally ignored.
5. Hummer (2006)
Everything seemed so different during Super Bowl XL, when macho vehicle buyers thought the bigger, the better. But Hummers turned into villains when gas hit $4.25 a gallon last summer. Now the monster trucks are edging closer to extinction as GM vows to discontinue them forever.
4. Computer.com (2000)
Set up a better website for people with computer problems, and they'll flock to your URL, looking for help, right? Well, if they could get to your website, maybe their computer problem isn't so bad. This online help desk, part of the dozens of dot-com companies blowing their investors' money on the Big Game, has been long forgotten. Buying a Super Bowl spot? Sorry, computer.com — customers not found.
3. Ameriquest (2006)
Another fantastic, funny spot — this one from a company that was as generous with its ad budget as it was with its free-flowing loans. Visit its site today, and surprise, surprise — no more loans for you, subprime or not.
2. HD DVD (2008)
Toshiba put a lot of effort into its HD DVD format, including the $2.7 million for this unconvincing hail-mary 2008 Super Bowl ad. With the amount of money wasted promoting this dead format, Toshiba could have hired personal Super Bowl cheerleaders to perform in the home of each person who bought one of its doomed players.
1. Pets.com (2000)
Let's send heavy bags of pet food and kitty litter to pet owners all over our 3,000-mile-wide country! We won't even charge them for shipping. We'll get rich! Just to make sure everyone knows about our fantastic idea, we'll put an ad on the Super Bowl, featuring a sock puppet crooning an old Chicago song in an ear-splitting howl. The company was dead and buried 9 months later.