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BC Student's Company to Advertise During Super Bowl

(1-27-2000) --Although he'll be watching Sunday's Super Bowl as will many of his fellow students, Boston College MBA candidate Michael Ford's interest in the game goes well beyond rooting for the Rams or Titans.

Ford, who expects to receive his degree from the Carroll Graduate School of Management in 2002, is the co-founder and president of Computer.com, an Internet start-up company. The fledgling firm has purchased coveted advertising time on the annual television football extravaganza to showcase its comprehensive home technology service.

Ford and his partners have purchased three 30-second advertising spots -- two in the network pre-game show and one that will run at the two-minute warning in the game's fourth quarter -- for $3 million. The Super Bowl game telecast, traditionally a launching pad for innovative advertisers and new products, is viewed by an estimated 140 million people each year.

"On Sunday, we launch our site, we launch our campaign and we launch the company," said Ford. "I just want the target audience to understand our message, laugh at the commercial and go to the site and enjoy it."

The spots, which have been produced by the Merkley Newman Harty advertising agency of New York City, are geared to attracting viewers to the Computer.com World Wide Web site, which offers personal computers, software and technical support to computer novices.

"On our ride to the filming of the commercial," said Ford, "I thought a lot about all the businesses that exist, how many advertise, how many advertise on TV, how many advertise on network TV, and then how many have ever done a Super Bowl ad. Over the last 30 years, only a few hundred companies have had commercials air on the Super Bowl.

"We believe that the Super Bowl is the perfect spot to launch a major brand."

Ford had been an employee of Computer Associates in Framingham before venturing into high-tech ownership with business partner Michael Zapolin. Together, they bought the rights to Computer.com and set out raising capital venture funds to place the firm in the public eye.

"We are very fortunate to live in such exciting times where two guys with a good idea can launch a company," he said. "We have taken risks that many people couldn t stomach. We couldn t have accomplished anything without all of the support we received, especially from the folks at Boston College."

Ford offered special credit to Asst. Prof. John Gallaugher (CSOM) for his assistance in planning and implementing the Computer.com purchase. Ford and his partners used a purchase strategy to acquire the company based on a class project supervised by Gallaugher, and augmented by a number of experts in the e-commerce and entreprenuership fields Gallaugher had invited to speak to his students.

"Without Professor Gallaugher's class, I probably would not have taken a chance and been able to seize the opportunity that I did," Ford said. "I call him my 'Internet Yoda.'"

As for the commercial itself, Ford isn't about to give a sneak preview. He just hopes people will watch it, enjoy it, and then log on.


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