Commercial Potential
Student's Company in Super Bowl Spotlight

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

He may not be as happy as St. Louis Rams fans, but Boston College MBA candidate Michael Ford had good reason to be pleased about the outcome of last Sundayís Super Bowl.

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 purchased coveted advertising time on the annual television football extravaganza to showcase its comprehensive home technology service.

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

As it turned out, the adís location in the final moments of the game was near-perfect, coming just after St. Louis scored the winning points.

"I just wanted the target audience to understand our message, laugh at the commercial and go to the site and enjoy it," Ford said in an interview prior to the Super Bowl.

CGSOM student Michael Ford (foreground) and his business partner Michael Zapolin work on ideas for their company's Super Bowl commercials.

The ad featured Ford and his business partner Michael Zapolin along with various "family members" explaining how the Computer.com Web site provides personal computers, software and technical support to computer novices. The spots were produced by the Merkley Newman Harty advertising agency of New York City.

"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."

Computer.comís 30-second Super Bowl spot received favorable reviews in business sections of both The Boston Globe and USA Today.

Ford had been an employee of Computer Associates in Framingham before venturing into high-tech ownership with 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 couldnít stomach. We couldnít 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 Gallaugherís 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 ëInternet Yoda.í"
 

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