When 5 million per ad is a bargain


When is 5 million per ad a bargain? When it’s the Super Bowl! Despite the price tag, Super Bowl commercials are a huge bargain. Sure, that number is the type to make your eyes bulge and your head jerk back a little. To avoid the hyperventilating that might be associated with that amount of money, that one lump sum needs to be broken down.

Super Bowl LI, played between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, took slot number 5 in the list of TV’s most watched events. I’m talking ever. An average of 113.7 million viewers tuned in. People aren’t just watching to see one team score a victory over another – they are watching for the commercials, too.

A different animal.

The Super Bowl is an entirely different animal. The whole thing is an event. No one is flipping channels. There is no good time to use the bathroom or grab another plateful of dip. The commercials are just as much of a draw as the game.

These commercials get a lot of undivided attention from consumers. That attention doesn’t disappear after those 30 seconds are over. Super Bowl ads are discussed, rehashed, evaluated. Even the bad commercials get traction weeks after they originally air.

People voluntarily share ads they like, ads they laughed at, and ads they hated on their social media accounts. People search for vintage Super Bowl commercials on YouTube years later. The impressions of Super Bowl commercials, their reach, are impossible to measure.

Want some measurements?

As I just said, the long-lasting effects of a Super Bowl commercial can’t be measured. The short term, though? That can totally be measured. I’ve got some numbers for you.

On average, a normal (and national) ad that runs during a popular, prime time show costs around $200,000 to $500,000 for 30 seconds. It will have around 2 million to 7 million viewers. Broken down, this commercial will cost roughly 8 to 10 cents per view.

For Internet ads, it’s typically around $25 for 1000 impressions. This is the cheapest option, at 2.5 cents per view.

The Super Bowl commercials come in at just a few cents more per view than Internet ads (4 to 5 cents per 30 second spot).

Super Bowl Commercials, case in point.

Even the broken down metrics demonstrate how Super Bowl commercials are actually a bargain. They don’t even take into account the longevity or viewer’s attention. By sheer numbers alone, Super Bowl ads are a smart choice, economically speaking.

Now, it is true that the production value for a Super Bowl commercial is significantly higher than that of a normal ad. That little bit of extra effort lasts for miles with consumers, though. Think of it as a little mini-movie. If your ad is a great one, it will still get play time years later.

While $5 mil may seem like a whopper, broken down that number isn’t so scary. Granted, that doesn’t mean the majority of us are going to run right out and place our very own Super Bowl ad. What it does mean is that for the heavy hitters who can afford to advertise during the Super Bowl, these commercials make financial (and common) sense.



Shannon Curtis, the author, is a rather large fan of the Old Spice and Snickers Super Bowl commercial offerings from years past. Shannon is the Project and Social Media Coordinator at Marketing Keys, a boutique media management firm in the heart of downtown Chicago.

To read Shannon’s previous blog, click here: