In 1967, the average cost of airing a commercial was $40,000 during Super Bowl I, according to Bradley Johnson of Ad Age. Adjusted for inflation, that figure is $287,433.53 in 2016, per the United States Department of Labor's inflation calculator.
These days, 30 seconds of televised advertisement space during the Super Bowl costs $5 million, according to Sapna Maheshwari of The New York Times, thanks in part to the meteoric rise of the NFL's popularity and increased audience for the Super Bowl (111.86 million watched Super Bowl 50, compared to 39.12 million for Super Bowl II, per Sports Media Watch).
The question is whether companies get proper value and return on investment for spending $5 million for 30 seconds of air time (that is $166,666.66 per second, in case you were wondering).
The Forbes Agency Council produced an article on the topic in January, and some marketing experts weighed in with their thoughts.
The gist of some more positive comments was that as long as the Super Bowl commercial is not the be-all and end-all of a campaign, and the execution surrounding the ad is successful, then the value behind paying that much money for airtime could be worth it.
Here's a remark from Ashley Walters of Empower MediaMarketing:
Super Bowl advertising can be very impactful and drive a lot of buzz but only if you think of the media buy beyond the TV screen. Make sure your plan includes how to bring the experience to life in real-time on social media and digital marketing so you’re leveraging it from all angles.
On the flip side, some folks don't think Super Bowl advertising is as valuable as other avenues, simply because there are cheaper and more effective ways to sell something. From Kristopher Jones of LSEO.com:
The Super Bowl is not the ultimate advertising platform of all time; Facebook Ads is. The average cost of a 30-second ad for this year's Super Bowl is estimated at over $5 million. Outside of an interest in watching the Super Bowl, the audience will be diverse and not targeted. In contrast, with million on Facebook Ads, you can directly target the exact audience that converts into new customers.
Michelle Castillo of CNBC.com also took on this topic last year, with some more pessimistic takes about Super Bowl-commercial value. She made a great point about the total cost of the Super Bowl ad being much more than air time itself:
That price doesn't include the cost of actually creating the ad, the publicity around the ad, and other aspects necessary to create a successful Super Bowl ad campaign. In total, one source said a full big game campaign can cost more than $30 million.
Overall, it could go either way depending on the execution behind the campaign and the total costs.
However, a lot depends on the quality of the commercials themselves. A viral ad that doesn't leave people's memories will go a long way with consumers, while forgettable commercials likely put companies behind the eight-ball.
These days, the Super Bowl-ad game is a bit different, as advertisements are leaked beforehand, perhaps in an effort for companies to gain some steam before the big day if folks think the commercials are good enough.
After sifting through all three links, here are the funniest three ads in the author's opinion.
Spoiler Alert: If you want to wait until Sunday to see the commercials, stop reading.
A take on the classic "boy throws rocks at a girl's window" deal, with an incredible twist.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton essentially recreates the scene in the movie Jack where Robin Williams crushes a bunch of elementary school kids playing basketball, except replace basketball with football. It works well.
I'm not ashamed to admit I've watched this ad five times and at least chuckled every time. I have no idea why. It's ridiculous.
Ultimately, viewers should be thankful that they can watch the ads for free and don't have to spend $5 million to buy Super Bowl air time in hopes that there's a valuable return on a massive investment.