Ads on last 'Seinfeld' outscore Super Bowl Even at $1.5 million for 30 seconds, Eisner calls it a better deal; Advertising


Viewers who tune in to the final episode of "Seinfeld" tonight are more likely to pay attention to the commercials that air during the show than they are to much-hyped Super Bowl commercials -- usually considered a premier advertising slot.

"With the Super Bowl, more people watch it at a party," said David Blum, vice president of strategic planning for Baltimore-based Eisner & Associates Inc., who has studied Super Bowl advertising and major TV events. "The environment is not as conducive to being able to pay attention."

They are more likely to watch Seinfeld at home by themselves, or with a few family members or friends -- a better buy for advertisers looking to communicate their messages, he said.

A national representative survey of 1,000 adults across the United States that the advertising firm conducted this month shows that 44 percent of all adults in the United States expect to watch the final show. That translates to 110 million potential viewers, Blum said.

Because the Super Bowl is a sporting event, the quality of the game is an important factor in viewers staying with the program once they tune in.

"With 'Seinfeld,' if you're watching the show, you're not going to turn it off halfway through," Blum said.

"Seinfeld," a show about the lives of four self-absorbed singles, also gives advertisers desirable demographics, Blum said. Advertisers are paying an average of $1.5 million for 30 seconds on tonight's show -- higher than any other recorded average spending for a TV commercial, Blum said. The average for Super Bowl advertisers is $1.3 million.

"It seems like an awful lot of money, but the payoff is the rare opportunity to reach so many folks at one time," he said. "Getting a mass audience today is much harder with all the cable choices."

Comparatively, costs for advertising during the 1997-1998 "Seinfeld" season were $700,000 for a 30-second TV commercial. A 30-second ad during the finale of "Cheers" in 1993 was $650,000. In 1980, 30 seconds on the "Who Shot J.R." episode of "Dallas" cost $250,000, Blum said.

Among the advertisers who have bought time on "Seinfeld" are: Visa and Mastercard, unusual because Jerry Seinfeld is a pitchman for American Express; Clairol, a company for which co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus was a celebrity spokeswoman; Gardenburger, a vegetable burger for the grill; Wendy's; the Gap; and Anheuser-Busch.

In the Eisner survey, 9 percent of the adults said they expected to pay attention to advertising during tonight's "Seinfeld" show, compared to 32 percent who said they paid attention to Super Bowl advertising.

"Consumers rarely admit to paying attention to advertising," Blum said. "Given how they plan to watch the show, we can expect them to behave differently."

And projected ratings for the final episode are stacking up well against other significant television events, he said. They are expected to surpass the "coming out" episode of "Ellen," may edge past the last episode of "Cheers," but may fall behind highly rated Super Bowls and the final episode of "M*A*S*H."

"When you add all those factors together, it looks like it's going to be a good investment for an advertiser," Blum said.

Pub Date: 5/14/98

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