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$3.5 million for 30 seconds?

The Super Bowl has come and gone. Once again, the final game of the NFL season set the record for the most watched television program in history as 111.3 million people tuned in for the rematch of the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.

These numbers are good, not only for television ratings, but for the companies who put out the greatly anticipated commercials during game breaks as well. This year, the commercials cost a stunning 3.5 million dollars for every thirty seconds of airtime, a new record. In an informal poll, ten people were asked if this is a good use of money. The majority of the ten subjects agreed that it was a good use of money.

“The phrase ‘good use of money’ means that the business believes it will make more than 3.5 million dollars from the exposure of their product to people,” says Zach Hagenbush, 19, an Economics major at Indiana University in Bloomington. “So if that’s the case, then it’s certainly a good use of money for the business.”

Joe Jorgenson, 32, a Hutchinson, Minnesota resident who works for 3M, agrees. “There is the saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. In the grand scheme of things, the money spent on Super Bowl ads is a small fraction of sales for the company for the year.”

One must look no further than the commercial juggernaut, Coca Cola. In 2009, Coca Cola posted a net income of 6.82 billion dollars. That being said, from 2002 to 2011, Coca Cola has spent 66.8 million dollars on Super Bowl advertisements. When averaged out, that number is dwarfed by the company’s net income. This year, Coca Cola released a pair of their signature polar bear commercials which have graced the world of advertising since 1922.

“It depends,” says Joe Glueckert, 61, the Technical Director of Fine and Performing Arts at Loyola University Chicago, “If their sales go up then it’s a good use of money, plain and simple, but not every company is going to make a profit out of it.”

While not every company will make a profit, it is still a gamble that some companies will take and sometimes it will pay off. An example of this is when Hyundai advertised their Elantra model in  2011’s Super Bowl XLV.  The commercial depicted sheep driving cars and the result was an increase in Elantra sales by 40% over the next year. This can be considered a big success for Hyundai, as gains like that are not particularly common.

Edison Macenas, 22, an Assistant Manager at Finish Line views it slightly differently. “The exposed item is going to get talked about and maybe bought. But other than that, it’s a waste of money because commercials [on other days] cost a fraction of [Super Bowl commercials] and people will see them eventually anyways.”

The majority of the commercials shown on Super Bowl Sunday are frequently re-run after the game. However, companies know that it all comes down to the numbers and hitting a large audience at one time.

“Everyone watches the Super Bowl. It’s an American tradition and to be honest, people look forward to seeing the commercials,” said Rico Grino, 28, from Lisle, IL. “I know I was one [of them] for sure. If the company has that kind of money, why not?”

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.