It’s the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, the annual playoff of the most expensive commercials on television. It’s the true championship of a free-market economy, with the season's most daring plays in mass-market advertising. I haven’t seen this year’s figures, but I know that in 2007, the cost of a commercial on the Super Bowl had reached $5.2 mllion a minute.
In the broader contest between commercials and regular programming, the commercials are winning. Twenty years ago, programming accounted for 51 minutes of every hour of television time. Now programming is at 42 minutes, with the underdog commercials having gained another 9 minutes. A typical 30-minute program now is about 21 minutes of programming, six minutes of national advertising and two minutes of local advertising.
If we watch 10 hours of television, we’ll see three hours of advertisements. Oh, and one other thing. Commercials going back to the 1960s were usually a minute long, then they dropped to 30 seconds and today are mostly 15 second pitches. In other words, we're seeing somewhere between two and four times as many different products being advertised as in years past.