Advertisers' Budget Splurge On "Lost" Finale Well Worth Their Money - And Yours

They knew it would be big. Advertisers have invested massive sums to get hot spots during ABC's finale of Lost on May 23rd and they were right to do so, according to various reports and studies following the airing of the six-year long series' closing episode. According to research firm Nielsen, the finale gathered an average 13.5 million viewers.

Lost finale effectiveness indices.JPG

Ad Engagement
A TV series finale usually brings advertisers 10-30% greater brand recall compared to what we could call 'standard' programming.

Bearing in mind that the three episodes before the Lost finale had yielded a 27% stronger brand recall compared to other primetime programs, the final episode literally broke a record 51% higher brand recall.

Ads aired during the Lost finale "on average generated 51% higher Brand Recall, 92% higher Message Recall, and 66% higher Likeability versus their other airings in the prior week," Nielsen reported.

Buzz
Discount retailer Target also emerges as a great winner. Citing online buzz monitoring company Zeta Interactive, the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog reported that Target's "Ribs" ad received the most positive buzz rating at 96%, just short of Google's 98% score for its Super Bowl commercial.

Zeta Interactive, which monitors over 150 million blogs, message boards, social media posts and twitter, said that the words "brilliant", "creative/creativity" and "effective" are among the most used to qualify Target "Ribs" ad.

See it for yourself:

Likeability
For Nielsen, Lost fans particularly liked another Target spot, the "Smoke Monster", which promoted smoke detectors. The commercial "captured the strongest Net Likeability of any ad in the show - nearly quadrupling the average of all other spots in the telecast," it said.

Lost finale likeability  index comparison.JPG

Here's the "Smoke Monster" commercial:

Customized, Rich & Tied-In: Savvy Ad Campaigns
The "secret" behind such success is, in fact, no real secret. Advertisers know that on-demand TV audiences skip commercials. They also are well aware that in order to get more and retain eyeballs on the TV screen, the commercial has to be meshed in with the actual content of the program. In a nutshell, rich, customized spots get more notice and work best with hard core fans.

For proof, Nielsen reported that Verizon's traditional ads on average generated 100% higher brand recall during the Lost finale. The company had been running a series of what Nielsen calls "hybrid tie-in" ads during the preceding retrospective episode.

The ads that aired during the finale were all directed by the show's director, Jack Bender, who meshed in Lost-specific situations and themes.

Target has hired advertising company Wieden & Kennedy to design the three 15-second spots aired that night.

Here's the third Target ad:

An Ad Overdose ?
Ready? Here are the figures.

Nielsen reported 13.5 million pairs of eyeballs on average watching the Lost finale, while ABC estimates that people who watched at least six minutes of the show add up to 20.5 million.

The finale lasted two and a half hours, including about 107 commercials or over 45 minutes of ads, as per Hollywood Insider's count.

Standard ad occurrence in a one-hour program is around 9.5 minutes for 44 minutes of content, plus network and local publicity. This means that 18-21 commercials can be squeezed in. For the Lost finale, there were "37 ads, along with seven promos for ABC and local programming," Hollywood Insider remarked.

Stellar Figures -- Do The Maths
Bear in mind the figures above and take a deep breath. Right, let's talk money.
Advertising Age quotes unnamed media buyers as saying that ABC sought between $850 000 and $950 000 for a 30-second spot in the Lost finale.

"There are many advertisers willing to pay a reasonable premium for inventory in programs that generate such a highly passionate and rabid fan base," Kris Magel, executive VP-director, national broadcast at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative told AdAge without commenting on ad prices in the "Lost" finale. "There is definitely value in that," he said.

Apparently, the final price tag stood at $900 000, AdAge reported, noting that ABC had declined to comment.

This compares to $213 563 last year, according to Advertising Age's annual survey of ad costs in prime-time broadcast shows -- a 400% premium for advertisers who didn't book ahead.

Last year's most expensive program for advertisers to hop in was NBC's Sunday Night Football, where the 30-second ad berth cost an average of $339,700.

Isn't it all just fascinating? Will we see this kind of analytics on Google TV?