SAN MATEO (01/27/2000) - Last year, the online job agency Hotjobs.com Ltd. fumbled away a US$2 million Super Bowl advertising campaign when its servers crashed from the surge in traffic.
More than a dozen dot-coms are hoping to avoid such a crucial mistake this year. At an average cost of $2 million, many are spending more than their entire year's revenues for 30 seconds of Super Bowl-generated hype.
One analyst, Giga Information Group Inc. Vice President Rob Enderle, predicted a 50 to 100 percent overall increase this year in Super Bowl-generated Web traffic.
"They should certainly go back and look at their load site and the capacity," Enderle said. "With the amount of money they're spending on these ads, it's a relatively minimal amount to double their server capacity."
Autobytel, the first dot-com to make the Super Bowl ad cut back in 1997, prepared for the Super Bowl in the same ways most dot-coms prepared for the year 2000.
"Autobytel expected the advertising to get results. One way they prepared was to have their entire IT staff at work that day, just like Y2K; they could send a team of people to deal with any problems that arose," said Betsy Isroelit, partner at RBI Communications, the firm that handled the Autobytel's Super Bowl campaign.
Unlike most previous contenders' sites, Autobytel's did not crash. Isroelit stressed the importance of ensuring that your company or your provider's server capacity is up to par.
Marc Willebeek-LeMair, chief technology officer at Netpliance, an Internet appliance OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and Super Bowl dot-com rookie, is taking heed. "Today, we run on two servers. (During the Super Bowl) we'll be running on over 40. We measure ourselves very closely. Our corporate objective:
Don't crash," he said.
Like Autobytel before them, Netpliance plans to have IT staff on-site.
"We're going to have a huge Super Bowl party. We're having a big screen and have a lot of people in to monitor the systems and phones," Willebeek-LeMair said. "We outsource our Web services and they're going to have people on-site as well."
No one wants to repeat Hotjobs.com's mistake -- Hotjobs.com, least of all.
1999's Super Bowl brought Hotjobs.com 120,000 hits within the first hour of the broadcast, a tremendous increase from the normal 10,000 to 15,000 visitors per month. According to The New York Times, some visitors had to wait five days to log on to the site. Others gave up and went to competing online job agencies instead.
This year, Hotjobs.com is determined to hold on to the ball.
"Our prep has been going on six months," said George Nassef, executive vice president and chief information officer of Hotjobs.com.
"We have rebuilt the site infrastructure from the ground up. We are 100-percent Sun Microsystems hardware now. We're sitting on a very large network, a 100-fold increase in network capacity. Last year we had several T1s, not in a raised floor environment. This year we have 200Mb of meshed bandwidth in a raised floor environment," Nassef said.
Hotjobs.com expects an eight-fold increase in traffic but is preparing for more.
"We're scaling for more than we're expecting, but we're expecting two months' worth of traffic in the first week," Nassef noted.
Hotjobs.com's competitor, Monster.com, drafted Dell's PowerEdge Servers in preparation for the Super Bowl blitz of Internet traffic. Monster.com has purchased five 30-second commercials during Super Bowl XXXIV. In the largest single online sale of servers, a $455,000 score, the online draft pick took place over Dell's Premier Pages site.
Monster.com claims that during last year's Super Bowl, it was the only one that did not fumble the added traffic. Within the 24 hours following last year's ad campaign, Monster.com enjoyed a 450 percent increase in job searches.
Netpliance will be joined by other Super Bowl rookies such as oxygen.com, screamingmedia.com, LastMinuteTravel.com, and DowJones.com, all of which are scrambling to keep ahead of the traffic onslaught.
The hang time for these rookies won't be long; Autobytel experienced enormous traffic increases immediately. The company's second year at the Super Bowl, in 1998, produced a 93 percent increase in new- and used-car purchase requests and a 1,700 percent traffic increase within minutes after the commercial aired, which continued throughout the day.
"One of the things that surprised Autobytel and us is that the Internet (produces) a really direct response, and it really surprised us that there was a such a rush to the site. When a Coke ad comes on, everyone doesn't run to the store immediately," RBI's Isroelit said.
With 30 seconds of fame coming at so dear a price, coverage is more important than ever. E-commerce is single-elimination: If you're not up and running, you're down for the count.
Netpliance Inc., in Austin, Texas, is at http://www.netpliance.com/.
Monster.com, in Maynard, Massachusetts, is a product of the interactive division of TMP Worldwide, and can be found at http://www.monster.com/.
Hotjobs.com Ltd., in New York, is at http://www.hotjobs.com/. Autobytel Inc., in Irvine, California, is at http://www.autobytel.com/.