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The Wall Street Journal

January 25, 2016 View Original Article

Website Makers Wix and Squarespace Suit Up for Super Bowl Again

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. PHOTO: SQUARESPACE

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. PHOTO: SQUARESPACE

In the world of advertising, there have been the beer wars, the soda wars and, more recently, the yogurt wars. Maybe soon there will be the website wars.

Both Wix.com and Squarespace are once again advertising in the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 in an effort to convince small-business owners, students, artists and more to use their software to make sleek websites.

Wix will appear for the second straight year, while Squarespace is returning for its third straight showing. The duo’s rise as potential Super Bowl regulars comes as web-hosting company GoDaddy, a mainstay since 2005, sits this game out.

“We are actually focusing on ourselves and the story we want to tell and less about our competitors,” said Wix Chief Marketing Officer Omer Shai. The company enlisted DreamWorks Animation to help it make its Super Bowl ad this year, as opposed to a traditional advertising agency.

CBS has said it is fetching around $5 million for 30 seconds of ad time for the game. Mr. Shai said the high price tag is worth it. Visits to Wix’s website and sign-ups for subscriptions increased after their Super Bowl ad last year, which starred a handful of retired NFL veterans.

“We got more money than what we invested in the Super Bowl,” Mr. Shai said.

Wix spent about $18.4 million on measured ad spending in the U.S. in 2014, according to Kantar Media. During the first nine months of 2015, when Wix’s first Super Bowl ad aired, the company spent about $17 million. The figures don't include all forms of Internet advertising, such as Web video.

Squarespace also is willing to plunk down big money once again to get its message in front of Super Bowl watchers. Last year, a record 114.4 million people tuned in to the game.

Anthony Casalena, founder and chief executive of Squarespace, said that after three years, he has learned that marketers seriously step up their game for the event, creating a tough environment to stand out in.

“We really love the opportunity to be a little more out there and a little more creative in our advertising than in a run-of-the-mill TV campaign,” he said.

Last year’s Squarespace ad featured Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges, while this year’s will feature comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.

As for the increased competition in his industry, Mr. Casalena welcomes it. He said that Squarespace was the small, unknown player when it first aired a Super Bowl commercial three years ago, while GoDaddy had run ads in the game for years.

“We’re totally fine with there being aggressive competition in the space,” Mr. Casalena said. “I think that for a consumer, one of the things that we hope to do with the advertisement is connect with people’s values.”

Squarespace spent about $25.2 million on ad spending in 2014 and $21.1 million in the first nine months of 2015, according to Kantar Media.

GoDaddy, for its part, made a splash in 2005 with the kind of raunchy ad featuring scantily-clad women that would become its Super Bowl trademark year after year. The company sought to shed that bad-boy image as it approached its public offering last year.

According to Kantar Media, GoDaddy spent $24.7 million in 2014 on U.S. ad spending and $19.5 million for the first nine months of last year.

“Over the past several months, we’ve been shifting away from high-level domestic brand awareness to a more personalized, data-driven marketing approach as we expand globally,” a GoDaddy spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Variety earlier reported that GoDaddy will sit on the sidelines this year.