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8 Super Bowl Commercials From Defunct Companies

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During the late '90s and early 2000s, the Internet Startup dot-com bubble was in full effect. Investors and venture capitalists itching to become the next overnight success invested in companies that failed to provide usable services—which led to losing millions—and in turn, they fell apart or collapsed. But before the bubble burst, many companies spent millions to air 30-second commercials during the Super Bowl to gain national exposure. Here are a few of them.

1. Pets.com


A site that sold and delivered retail pet supplies, Pets.com built a profile by buying national ads during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Super Bowl XXXIV, which cost the company $1.2 million. Comic actor Michael Ian Black voiced the Pets.com sock puppet mascot.

To stay competitive and build a loyal customer base, Pets.com sold pet supplies at cheaper prices than the products' retail costs, and the company burned through $30 million of investment capital before calling it quits in November 2000.

2. OnMoney.com


OnMoney.com's main mission was to provide usable and easy tricks to sort through and manage your financial statements. The company boasted that it had quick and easy methods that would allow users to learn how to be fiscally responsible. Ironically, OnMoney.com wasted a majority of its money on a glitzy $30 million national ad campaign that culminated with Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000. While the commercial claimed easy access to their website, the truth was that OnMoney.com didn’t spend enough money to build a functional and usable website, which was still labeled “beta” by the time the commercial aired during the Big Game. The site, once a subsidiary of TDAmeritrade, saw its functionalities integrated into Ameritrade's Personal Finance Center in 2001.

3. Netpliance.com


Founded in 1999, Netpliance was a company that manufactured inexpensive Internet appliances—small and cheap computers that were only used for Internet browsing. The company sold their i-Opener web browser machine for $99 at a loss. The actual retail price of the Internet appliance was believed to be somewhere between $300 and $400. The company didn't intend to make money on its hardware; instead, the idea was that Netpliance.com would turn a profit selling Internet subscriptions to access the web.

During Super Bowl XXXIV, Netpliance spent millions on a 30-second ad that announced to the world that logging on to “cyberspace” didn’t mean owning a computer. Almost a year later, in November 2000, the company quit making Internet appliances and licensed their technology to AT&T and Earthlink, who helped provide Internet access to the company’s customers. In 2002, Netpliance folded altogether.

4. Lifeminders.com


The startup company Lifeminders.com advertised “personalized” email, which included relevant news, entertainment, sports, and lifestyle stories that appealed to you. The service would aggregate all of this information in one digestible daily email. At its height, Lifeminders.com boasted 18 million subscribers and was estimated to be worth $60 million.

In 1999, a few months after the company went public, it aired a self-proclaimed “Worst Ad on the Super Bowl” during Super Bowl XXXIV, featuring typewriter text against a yellow background while "Chopsticks" played simply throughout the ad. In 2001, it was acquired by the Herndon, Virginia-based Cross Media Marketing Corp. The website now hosts nothing but ads.

5. Epidemic.com

Founded in September 1999, Epidemic.com was an Internet service that sought to simulate viral marketing by "[paying] consumers to attach links to Internet businesses on their outgoing email," according to CNet. The Denver-based startup spent $1.6 million on a 30-second commercial that aired during Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000. Epidemic.com burned through its first round of private investment money, $7.6 million, in less than a year, and folded in June 2000.

6. Ourbeginning.com


The online personalized stationery store Ourbeginning.com experienced some growth in web traffic after it premiered its 30-second commercial during Super Bowl XXXIV. The online retailer spent upwards of $4 million of its $15 million advertisement budget for Super Bowl commercials in the year 2000. The site was out of its original founders' hands by 2002, and now re-directs users to a daycare center in Seattle, Washington.

7. Just For Feet


During Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999, athletic shoes and sportswear retailers Just For Feet aired a very controversial 30-second commercial. The ad featured a group of white men tracking a barefoot Kenyan runner through the African savanna. The men give the runner some water spiked with a sedative that makes him pass out. When the runner awakens, he finds a pair of new running shoes on his feet, as he runs away trying to shake off the new shoes.

The ad generated backlash against Just For Feet with accusations that the retailers were racist and “appallingly insensitive.” Just For Feet filed a lawsuit against the ad agency responsible for the commercial, which was later dropped. The company also filed for Chapter 7 protection in 2003 and eventually closed its doors in 2004, as a result of accounting fraud.

8. FloTV

Telecommunications company Qualcomm developed the technology that allowed the transmission of audio, video, and data to portable devices such as personal TVs and mobile phones. Qualcomm branded the personal streaming service as FloTV and began selling devices for the service in 2007. With a struggling subscription base, Qualcomm launched a “Hail Mary” for Super Bowl XLV in the form of a 30-second commercial in 2010. Despite 111 million viewers tuning in to Fox to watch the Big Game, FloTV called it quits the following March.

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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
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Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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11 Haunting Facts About Beloved

Toni Morrison—who was born on February 18, 1931—made a name for herself with The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Beloved, about a runaway slave haunted by the death of her infant daughter, that her legacy was secured. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was a key factor in the decision to award Morrison the Nobel Prize in 1993. All the awards aside, Beloved is a testament to the horrors of slavery, with its narrative of suffering and repressed memory and its dedication to the more than 60 million who died in bondage. Here are some notable facts about Morrison’s process and the novel’s legacy.

1. IT’S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

While compiling research for 1974's The Black Book, Morrison came across the story of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave from Kentucky who escaped with her husband and four children to Ohio in 1856. A posse caught up with Garner, who killed her youngest daughter and attempted to do the same to her other children rather than let them return to bondage. Once apprehended, her trial transfixed the nation. "She was very calm; she said, 'I’d do it again,'" Morrison told The Paris Review. "That was more than enough to fire my imagination."

2. MORRISON CAME UP WITH THE CHARACTER BELOVED AFTER SHE STARTED WRITING.

The book was originally going to be about the haunting of Sethe by her infant daughter, who she killed (just as Garner did) rather than allow her to return to slavery. A third of the way through writing, though, Morrison realized she needed a flesh-and-blood character who could judge Sethe’s decision. She needed the daughter to come back to life in another form (some interpret it as a grief-driven case of mistaken identity). As she told the National Endowment for the Arts’ NEA Magazine: "I thought the only person who was legitimate, who could decide whether [the killing] was a good thing or not, was the dead girl."

3. SHE WROTE THE ENDING EARLY IN THE WRITING PROCESS.

Morrison has said she likes to know the ending of her books early on, and to write them down once she does. With Beloved, she wrote the ending about a quarter of the way in. "You are forced into having a certain kind of language that will keep the reader asking questions," she told author Carolyn Denard in Toni Morrison: Conversations.

4. MORRISON BECAME FASCINATED WITH SMALL HISTORICAL DETAILS.

To help readers understand the particulars of slavery, Morrison carefully researched historical documents and artifacts. One particular item she became fascinated with: the "bit" that masters would put in slaves' mouths as punishment. She couldn’t find much in the way of pictures or descriptions, but she found enough to imagine the shame slaves would feel. In Beloved, Paul D. tells Sethe that a rooster smiled at him while he wore the bit, indicating that he felt lower than a barnyard animal.

5. SHE ONLY RECENTLY READ THE BOOK HERSELF.

In an appearance on The Colbert Report last year, Morrison said she finally got around to reading Beloved after almost 30 years. Her verdict: "It’s really good!"

6. THE BOOK INSPIRED READERS TO BUILD BENCHES.

When accepting an award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1988, Morrison observed that there is no suitable memorial to slavery, "no small bench by the road." Inspired by this line, the Toni Morrison Society started the Bench by the Road Project to remedy the issue. Since 2006, the project has placed 15 benches in locations significant to the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, including Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which served as the point of entry for 40% of slaves brought to America.

7. WHEN BELOVED DIDN’T WIN THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN 1987, FELLOW WRITERS PROTESTED.

After the snub, 48 African-American writers, including Maya Angelou, John Edgar Wideman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., signed a letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review. "For all of America, for all of American letters," the letter addressing Morrison read, "you have advanced the moral and artistic standards by which we must measure the daring and the love of our national imagination and our collective intelligence as a people."

8. IT’S ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY CHALLENGED BOOKS.

Between 2000 and 2009, Beloved ranked 26th on the American Library Association’s list of most banned/challenged books. A recent challenge in Fairfax County, Virginia, cited the novel as too intense for teenage readers, while another challenge in Michigan said the book was, incredibly, overly simplistic and pornographic. Thankfully, both challenges were denied.

9. MORRISON ALSO WROTE AN OPERA BASED ON GARNER’S LIFE.

Ten years ago, Morrison collaborated with Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour on Margaret Garner, an opera about the real-life inspiration behind Beloved. It opened in Detroit in 2005, and played in Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York before closing in 2008.

10. MORRISON DID NOT WANT IT MADE INTO A MOVIE.

Although she publicly claims otherwise, according to a New York magazine story, Morrison told friends she didn’t want Beloved made into a movie. And she didn’t want Oprah Winfrey (who bought the film rights in 1988) to be in it. Nevertheless, the film came out in 1998 and was a total flop.

11. THERE'S AN ILLUSTRATED VERSION.

The Folio Society, a London-based company that creates fancy special editions of classic books, released the first-ever illustrated Beloved in 2015. Artist Joe Morse had to be personally approved by Morrison for the project. Check out a few of his hauntingly beautiful illustrations here.

This article originally appeared in 2015.

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