Super Bowl Commericals Run 3.5 Million for 30 Seconds

So when you’re watching them, think to yourself, was this commercial worth the amount it cost to air it, not even counting what it cost to make it


Having once been tangentially involved in a super bowl ad buy the answer of everybody involved was:

Who knows.

But keep in mind that a Super Bowl ad potentially comes with a lot of ancillary benefit that a normal commercial doesn’t have. It may be one of those that “leaks” that generates lot of free views. There is actually press that people read after the game detailing all of the commercials and rating them and providing links where people actually go out of their day specifically to watch your commercial.

Plus, if a 100 million people watch the Super Bowl, assume a quarter are paying attention when your commercial comes on, paying 15 cents to get a person to pay attention to your product for 30 seconds isn’t such a horrible thing if you’ve got the money.

Amazingly though the cost of advertising time during the SB keeps getting more and more expensive the quality of the commercials gets worse and worse.

I don’t know how much that is true and how much it is that expectations have changed.

An environment of “Hey, what do you know, an interesting commercial during my football game” is a much different level of expectation to meet or exceed than “hey, the commercials during the game are going to be at least as interesting as the game itself.”

But still, little compares to the crap that came out in 1999-2002 when half the commercials were from dotcoms looking to blow their entire VC funding on one splashy ad.

**Who cares? ** Sorry for the big ole’ threadshit, but every year we have to hear about how outrageous the price of airtime is during the Superbowl.


It’s really only of note if some small upstart manages to scrape together enough to blow their budget on a spot. Or, say, when Miller Brewing bought a one second spot. Otherwise, big surprise! the beer, cola, tech, auto, and entertainment giants have millions at their disposal.

If the rebuttal is, “Well, it’s an astonishing figure in that it far outpaces any amount the common home viewer could ever hope to earn.” Yes. So is any other figure from a huge business. Guess how much their website costs? Guess what their annual catering budget is? Guess how much they spend matching up to X% on 401Ks? Big numbers. Big deal.

It’s about $.03/person to reach 100 million Americans. Try doing that with any other paid advertising medium.

Plus another way of looking at it is, it is kind of a deal compared to other TV shows.

Looking online an episode of the Simpsons runs about $250,000 a spot and 5 million people watched that last Sunday, many probably with the ability to skip commercials.

With the Super Bowl, people may not be paying attention but they actually watch it all live.

And there are a lot of people (including me) who are watching the Superbowl more for the commercials (and the spectacle) than for the game itself. Plus there is all of the media attention before and after the game to the commercials. And note that $3.5 million is merely the cost of the airtime. I’ll bet that some companies spend that much producing the commercials.

Cool! My Resolution for 2012 was to save more money, and by not buying a 30-second spot on the Superbowl, I’m saving $3.5M!

I’m off the hook for the rest of the year!

Then again watching and buying because you watched are two different things.

In nearly all cases, the ads aren’t intended to get you to buy something because you watched that one ad. It’s about creating a positive impression of the brand, which (hopefully) will come into play the next time you are making a purchase in the category. In the cases of the smaller companies which blow their entire ad budget for the year on that one ad, it’s about building some name recognition (and maybe some positive buzz).