Bet You Didn’t Know… 40 Fascinating, Crazy Facts About Advertising

40_Fascinating Advertising Facts

What did the first ever advertisement try to sell? Why was Malaysia angry with Brad Pitt? And how many Super Bowl commercials do you need to help build a new football stadium? As Super Bowl 50 draws near, we found some fascinating (and some just downright crazy) anecdotes about advertising and Super Bowl ads.

  1. In 1997, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to appear in a Pizza Hut TV commercial along with his 10-year old granddaughter, Anastasia. According to CNN, Gorbachev had rejected many previous offers, but agreed to do the Pizza Hut ad to help fund his “perestroika archive.” Besides, he added, “pizza brings people together.” Well, at least he didn’t say that about perestroika archives.
  2. Folk and blues idol Bob Dylan has appeared in no less than nine TV commercials. In 1965, he told reporters at a press conference that if he ever “sold out,” it would be to “ladies garments.” In 2004, he and his music appeared in Victoria’s Secret’s Angel in Venice ad. His most recent commercial came out during Monday Night Football on October 5, 2015. That time, Dylan helped promote IBM’s intelligence software “Watson.”
    Watch Bob Dylan as a Victoria’s Secret Angel. Well, almost:
  3. According to The Daily Mail, Victoria’s Secret requires all its “Angels” to be at least 1.75 meters tall. At 1.71 meters, Bob Dylan wouldn’t have made the cut.
  4. On the 1993 classic Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character is stuck living the same day over and over again. According to, during TV showings of the film, it is common to show the same commercial six times in a row for every break, or have every break consist of the same six commercials.
  5. Swedish furniture giant IKEA was the first company to feature a gay couple in a TV commercial. According to Ad Week, the 1994 spot aired after 10 pm in IKEA’s three strongest markets: New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
  6. In 2002, the Malaysian government banned all ads for Toyota Altis starring Brad Pitt. The reason: non-Asian faces would “plant a sense of inferiority among Asians,” as per the county’s deputy information minister Zainuddin Maidin, quoted on BBC.  “Why must we use their faces in our advertisements?” continued Zainuddin hilariously, “aren’t our own people handsome enough?”
    After watching this, we’re thinking Brad pitt can “plant a sense of inferiority” among anybody:
  7. TV pickup – a British term used to refer to a phenomenon that affects electricity generation and transmission networks – often occurs when a whole bunch of people watch the same TV program and then use the commercial break to operate electrical appliances – specifically kettles. According to the BBC, the largest ever pickup occurred on July 4, 1990, as England and West Germany were getting ready to shoot penalties in the FIFA World Cup semi-final.
  8. In 2002, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report that studied 300 weight loss ads and found that more than half of them were deceitful. According to, one of the more common fabrications is to use two different people for the infamous “before” and “after” shots.
    weight loss advertisements
  9. Most food that appears in ads, whether in TV or in print, isn’t food at all. It is often in fact, inedible and dangerous. According to and various other sources, advertisers use glue, yogurt or shampoo to simulate milk. Items like steak and hamburgers are sometimes glossed over with shoe polish to provide a juicy look and even innocent looking ice cubes are typically made of acrylic, so they won’t melt under the hot photography lights.
    Check out this video to learn some food ad tricks from the experts:
  10. According to a 2012 study by GoldSpot Media, up to 50% of the impressions served on a static mobile banner ad come from accidental clicks or “fat finger” taps. In other words, half of the banners clicked are clicked by mistake.
  11. According to an infographic by, 57% of consumers are afraid of receiving spam from advertisers if they click on a banner. 55% are worried about getting a virus and 54% just don’t trust online banners.
  12. A 2008 study conducted in York University estimated that the US pharmaceutical industry spends almost twice as much on promotion as it does on research and development.
  13. According to, in 2014 Google’s ad revenue totaled about $59.06 billion. Advertising accounted for 89.5% of Google’s total revenues.
  14. A 30-second spot in Super Bowl I (1967) cost $45,000. A spot in Super Bowl 50 will reportedly cost $5 million. The average yearly rise in the cost of a Super Bowl spot since the first game was broadcast – a staggering 10.18%.
  15. According to Kanter Media, advertising time in Super Bowl 2005 was 40 minutes and 15 seconds. In Super Bowl XLVIII, it grew to 49 minutes and 15 minutes. Super Bowl 2013 had 51 minutes and 40 seconds of ad time – the highest to date.
  16. According to NFL’s media kit, the NFL prohibits advertising that promotes, among other products: distilled spirits (like vodka, gin, rum, whisky, or anything that has an ABV over 35%), tobacco products, firearms, contraceptives, feminine hygiene products, fireworks and lotteries.
  17. According to USA Today, a 1-minute Super Bowl 50 ad costs $9 million. It would take about 51 minutes of commercial revenue to pay for the cost of building last’s year SB venue – the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. That baby cost $455 million.
    University of Phoenix Super Bowl stadium
  18. According to the Ad Age annual pricing survey of 2014 and excluding the Super Bowl, the most expensive 30-second TV spots aired during Sunday Night Football ($627,300), Thursday Night Football ($483,333), The Walking Dead ($400,000), The Big Bang Theory ($344,827) and The Blacklist ($282,975).
  19. This year that list is slightly different, with Empire kicking The Walking Dead’s butt out of the top 5: Sunday Night Football ($603,000 for a 20-second spot), Empire ($497,364), Thursday Night Football ($464,625), The Big Bang Theory ($348,300) and How To Get Away with Murder ($252,934).
  20. The first paid advertisement in an American newspaper appeared in the Boston News-Letter in 1704. It sought a buyer for an estate in Long Island.

    First paid advertisement_Super Bowl advertising history_boston news-letter

    Photo courtesy of

  21. The first official, paid television advertisement was broadcast in the US on July 1, 1941, before a baseball game. It featured a Bulova watch that ticked for 60 seconds. Reports as to its cost vary, but the company paid anywhere from $4 to $9 to air it. Calculating for inflation, that’s between $66 to $150 in today’s money. Still a damn good deal!
  22. Chanel No.5 is responsible for the most expensive TV commercial ever made. Aired in 2004, the 2-minute ad featured Nicole Kidman and Rodrigo Santoro falling in love inside a taxi cab. The ad cost $33 million to make and according to numerous reports, Kidman was paid $3 million for her participation. And who is Rodrigo Santoro, you asked? He was Paulo in Lost. And next year, when the new Ben Hur comes out, he’ll play Jesus.
    Think Chanel’s ad was money well spent?
  23. A Guinness TV commercial from 2007 is the second most expensive ad ever made. The Irish beer celebrated its 80th anniversary by spending $20 million on an ad that had no celebrities, but a whole lot of dominoes.
  24. According to a Forbes article titled “The Money Behind Super Bowl XLIX,” the average Super Bowl commercial could generate as much as $10 million in ad value. Emphasis on “could.” 
  25. Based on Twitter activity during the last Super Bowl (XLIX), Budweiser’s ad had the highest engagement, while McDonald’s had the most retweets. According to Twitter, McDonald’s also had the most mentions during the game itself.
  26. According to Rentrak’s Ad Retention Index, which measured second-by-second viewing averages for each commercial, website builder Wix‘s ad was the most watched ad in Super Bowl XLIX. According to eMarketer, Rentrak figures indicate that ad exposure was almost equal to viewership of the game itself.
    Luckily for all the viewers who saw it, the Wix 2015 Super Bowl ad was a great one:
  27. Based on online video shares, Budweiser’s Lost Puppy spot was the most shared ad across Facebook, Twitter and blogs during and following Super Bowl XLIX. Online ad shares grew by 82% in Super Bowl XLIX compared to the previous year, according to Unruly statistics. 
  28. Following its seminal 1984, Apple sold approximately $3.5 million worth of Macintoshes in the days after the advertisement ran. According to Business Insider, in the three months following the Super Bowl Apple sold $155 million worth of Macintoshes. 
  29. Most watches displayed in advertisements are set to 10:10. According to Business Insider, this is not only symmetrical – and therefore more aesthetic – but also ensures that the watchmaker’s logo isn’t obscured by the watch hands.
  30. Apple, however, chooses to display 10:09 rather than 10:10 on all of its Apple Watch ads. We can only assume that this means that Apple is “ahead of the curve,” so to speak. Or just annoyingly, over-the-top original, as Apple so often likes to be. 
  31. In 1929, American Tobacco Co. spent $12.3 million to advertise Lucky Strikes. This is the most any company has ever spent on single-product advertising. 
  32. Life magazine became the first magazine to carry $100 million annually in advertising, according to Ad Age
  33. According to Campaign Media Analysis Group, who tracks political advertising expenditures, $2.6 billion was spent on political advertising in the US in 2008 – the largest ever during a presidential campaign. Obama’s campaign spent $310 million of them on ads like this:
  34. In 1967, Mary Wells became the first woman to head a major advertising agency. She was the founding president of Wells Rich Greene, an advertising agency known for its innovative and revolutionary work.
  35. In 1993, the Internet struck gold as 5 million people worldwide got online. Six years afterwards, in 1999, Internet advertising already broke the $2 billion mark. 
  36. In 1982, Mars rejected an offer for the inclusion of M&M’s in the upcoming movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. A big mistake. Huge, actually. Hershey took the chance with Reese’s Pieces and according to countless reports, saw its product’s sales jump by as much as 300%.
    Remember watching Elliot and E.T. bonding over Reese’s?
  37. According to Wonderful Engineering, the arrow which looks like a smiling face in Amazon’s logo also represents the wide range of items available for retail by Amazon, from A to Z.
    Amazon Logo Super Bowl commercials 2016
  38. Audi’s four circles in the logo, according to the same source, represent the four companies that were a part of the Auto-Union Consortium in 1932: DKW, Horch, Wanderer and Audi.
    Audi icon super bowl commercial
  39. Adults over the age of 15 spend 2.8 hours in front of TV every day. In its latest “Advertising and Audiences” report, Nielsen states that roughly one-quarter of programming is advertising. That’s almost 70 minutes of ads per day, per person. 
  40. According to eMarketer, worldwide ad spending will reach $719.20 billion by the end of 2019. Advertisers spent $592.43 billion in 2015, an increase of 6% over 2014.

The advertising world is stock full of these quirky anecdotes, mind-blowing numbers and – not unlike a good Hollywood movie – a little bit of smoke, mirrors and magic. At $5 million a pop, we can only hope that Super Bowl 50, on February 7, will provide us all with a generous dose of that magic, as well.

Hate boring commercials? Check out the funniest Super Bowl commercials of all time!