Like any American with a TV and a passion for football (or at least a burning desire not to watch Super Bowl counter programming largely made up of “Teen Mom 2” and “Real Housewives” marathons…), I spent most of Sunday watching the big game and the high-priced ads that ran between plays.
Advertisers spent a reported $3.5 million for 30-second spots during this year’s game, up (way up) from around $600,000 back in the ‘80s. While, on the surface, that may seem like a waste of cash, consider that roughly 111 million people have tuned into the Super Bowl annually in recent years. That works out to a downright economical cost of about 3 cents per viewer.
It’s not just the volume of viewers advertisers are paying for, either: it’s our attention. Super Bowl Sunday is the one day of year when commercials don’t act as background noise to all the things we do when we’re not watching TV. And we’re not watching TV, especially broadcast TV, a lot these days. Thanks to Twitter, Wii, Facebook, Pinterest, Netflix, Tumblr, Xbox, iPods, iPads, iPhones and — oh, yeah — real life, we’re like dogs at a lifelong squirrel convention.
We’re also increasingly adept at erecting barriers to anyone trying to sell us anything — as anyone who has clicked the “skip this ad” button on a website, fast-forwarded through commercials with a DVR, or joined the do-not-call list knows all too well. So even if a company devised the most spectacular, Earth-shaking, change-your-life advertisement in the known universe, a lot of us wouldn’t even see it. (Unless it aired on Super Bowl Sunday, of course.)