Which Commercial Will You Root For?

On July 4, 1941 the Brooklyn Dodgers took on the Philadelphia Phillies at home in Ebbets Field, a game that was broadcast on local television station WNBT. Though only about 1% of US homes had a television at the time, maybe as many as four thousand households tuned in. It was probably less than that, but just before the game started, those watching also got to see a ten second advertisement for the Bulova Watch Company.

Remembered as the first ever television commercial, it cost less than ten dollars to create, somewhere in the neighborhood of $70-$160 in 2021 dollars. I have no idea what the return on investment for this commercial was, but given that the same company produced the first radio spot advertisement in 1926 and in 1931 engaged in the watch industry’s first million-dollar advertising campaign through its retail partners, I think it’s a safe bet that Bulova thought it was money well spent. That might be especially true since we’re still talking about it eighty years later.

And it seems like a particularly reasonable price tag when you consider that the bidding for a 30-second commercial time slot for this weekend’s Super Bowl 55 began at 5.6 million dollars. Of course, commercial slots aren’t always quite that expensive. When that one pirate-themed team with the quarterback who cheats takes on the Great State of Missouri’s one and only professional football team which just happens to be the reigning champion, more than 100 million people are expected to be watching.  

Eighty years later America still runs on Bulova time.
photo credit: Max Grabert Bulova Precisionist Champlain 98B142 via photopin (license)

As much as it might sound like I do, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I tried for a while because my husband enjoys watching the sport, but I’ve never much cared for American football. Now more and more it just feels like I’m watching repeated brain trauma.

So, like an estimated 37 million of my closest friends, I will tune into the commercials and use the football breaks to go to the bathroom, enjoy some snacks, or perhaps read a book.  I am reading a really good one right now. I will root for the best commercials, those that stick with me because they made me laugh, or cry, or admire their cleverness.

I don’t really have a dog in that fight either because I couldn’t quite swing the $5.6 million. A while back I did spend exactly zero dollars of 1941 currency to produce two book trailers that I have now posted (for the bargain price of zero dollars in 2021 currency) here on my blog where nearly 5,000 followers could potentially see them. It will probably be somewhat less than that and they aren’t exactly Super Bowl quality, but who knows? Maybe people will still be talking about them eighty years from now.

20 thoughts on “Which Commercial Will You Root For?

  1. “I did spend exactly zero dollars of 1941 currency” Hahaha!

    Since I’ve never watched the Super Bowl, I have never seen a Super Bowl commercial. Although, this post is reminding me of the I Love Lucy episode where she’s advertising Vitameatavegamin and ends up more than a little tipsy.

    1. Ha! If you want to see the commercials and completely skip the football, lots of lovely people spend way too much time ranking them and putting them on YouTube. That’s how I’d do it if the game wasn’t going to be on in my house already anyway.

  2. I just realized the Super Bowl was this weekend. Not that I care, but my mother is a HUGE fan (of course her Packers didn’t make it) and I used to use conversations with her on Sunday evening to prime me for sports talk at work the next day. Alas, that’s no longer a problem with telework. Sometimes the ads are on YouTube before the Super Bowl, and that’s a treat…

  3. I keep thinking these days that TV sports programmes really are just long commercials with the occasional sports break. Here in NZ the place is mad on rugby, which appears to involve two teams mercilessly beating each other up over an 80-minute period for possession of an inflated pig’s bladder. Probably similar to American football, I suspect. I can’t really say as my sole interest in anything ‘sporting’ involves cars with V8 motors moving rapidly around a track, or better still, trying to get to the end of a quarter-mile straight from a standing start, very very quickly…

    1. It does feel like that. I’ve watched rugby a little bit. I think it might actually be more brutal because there’s much less protective equipment. I don’t really follow sports much outside of baseball, which I love. I do appreciate the celebratory nature of the Super Bowl, however, because it marks the end of football season.

  4. Great entries into the commercial challenge.

    Super Bowl is the only football game I even sort of watch. Greg likes it, so it’s on. We make it taco night. Back in the day, I enjoyed going to large parties at friends’ houses, but haven’t done that in a few years. And I also mostly watch for the commercials.

    1. Huh. I never actually noticed that. Both are a little old. I think I probably made the Smoke Rose to Heaven one a little more than a year ago since the book was published in early February of 2020. I know I used the same website.

    1. Thank you! I think that is how most of the country sees these two teams. Also, I know A LOT more Chiefs fans, so regardless of my apathy, my personal circle will be much happier if they win.

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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