Government Motors ran eight count ’em eight commercials in this year’s Super Bowl telecast, and Chrysler (Government-FIAT Motors) ran two — one of which, at two minutes, is the longest to air in 45 years of Super Bowl history. At $3 million for 30 seconds, that’s $27 for the thirties. The 120-second special, according to CEO Sergio Marchionne, was a bargain — $12 million worth of air time ($3 million times four) for the mere pittance of about $9 million. In one way, those commercials cost more than $36 million, and in another they cost less.
More than $36 million
That $36 million figure is just for air time; all that buys an advertiser is a blank screen. The cost of producing something to show on that screen is another story. According to one source, production costs for the typical national 30-second commercial average almost $350,000.
But, at least from a budget standpoint, Super Bowl commercials aren’t your typical national commercial. They don’t include the expense of computer-generated imagery (CGI) that makes a Camaro turn into a giant Transformer and back. Nor does it include the days of location shooting and special effects it takes to put a Camaro through a fanciful chase scene that would be over the top for even the most fanciful action movie.
Not to be outdone, Chrysler did lots of location shooting all over Detroit — including lots of breaking down and setting up to find those few locations that haven’t become abandoned derelict buildings or been reduced to rubble, paying Eminem for on-camera and voice-over work, hiring a full, on-camera choir, etc. (By the way, what’s with this Detroit stuff? FIAT is headquartered in Turin, Italy.)
Less than $36 million
Given the massive government bailouts, all this advertising was arguably paid for by American taxpayers from coast to coast. With the Richmond metropolitan statistical area’s population representing some 0.4% of the national total, our collective share of this federal largesse was only $144,000. Feel better?
$1,682,242.99 cost per thousand
Government Motors at least had the decency to run straight, if inane, Chevrolet product messages. (You should buy a Camaro because it becomes a Transformer, a Volt because old folks are hard of hearing and a Cruze because you can use it to read Facebook mesages instead of paying attention to the road.)
But, according to J. P. Friere of the Washington Examiner, FIAT’s intention in running a rwo-minute ad extranavaganza was far more devious and inimical:
[I]t is likely that this ad had more to do with getting political support than selling cars. Besides, is spending millions on a Super Bowl ad appropriate for a company that received a taxpayer bailout to recover from a bankruptcy?
The Detroit News reports that Chrysler is lobbying the federal goverrment to cut back the interest on the bailout they already received and give them another one for retooling. Or, as Friere put it
Chrysler took $15 billion from taxpayers, to which it wasn’t entitled, and at an industry convention its CEO calls taxpayers a word that is defined as “someone who acts in a disreputable, unethical, or unscrupulous way, especially in the practice of law, politics and used car sales.” Message received: “Taxpayers’ money saved a car company from bankruptcy and all they got was this lousy Super Bowl commercial.”
So if the real target audience is not the public, but the 535 members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, simple arithmetic shows that the cost per thousand (CPM) — the standard mesaurement of media efficiency — was $1,682.249.99. This is a little bit higher than the 2.8¢ CPM that any of the other 31 advertisers paid per spot to reach what turned out to be a record-tying audience of 106 million viewers.
The Government Motors and Chrysler-FIAT Motors commercials are online at, among other places, www.foxsports.com/ads, so go there, watch them often, and enjoy them. After all, you’re the one who’s paying for them.