Visualization of the Week: Profits vs Super Bowl ad expense

The team at Quartz compares 3.5 hours of advertiser profits to the nearly $4 million Super Bowl ad price tag. Were the ads worth it?

Commercials have long been a highlight of the Super Bowl (if you missed any, the Verge grabbed the Hulu compilation), but how much do the advertising companies profit from the notoriously expensive ad spots?

Ritchie King at Quartz pulled together a chart to provide context. King reports that ads this year sold for an average of $3.7 to $3.8 million, but as King explains and the chart shows, that dollar figure is a mere “pittance” for the advertising companies. “In fact,” King notes, “some of them make almost as much in profits in an average 3.5 hours — roughly the time it takes to air the Super Bowl itself.”

Note that the chart on the bottom reflects total Super Bowl ad spending between 2002 and 2011. King points out that it’s difficult to pin point overall profits brought in by a single ad, but as Suzanne Vranica reports at the Wall Street Journal, the size of the captive audience and the ripple effect from additional publicity through media coverage of the ads compounds the value of the ad spots. Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon told Vranica that they’ve “received about $20 million in free media coverage of the ad” they ran during the game.

Hat tip to Nathan Yau for highlighting this visualization.

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