The typical conversation about Super Bowl ads and their sticker-price begins with a statistic and ends with tremendous skepticism. "$4 million for no more than half a minute of TV time, are you kidding me?" And then every year, companies make it clear that they are not kidding you, by buying every last spot many weeks before the big game, at a higher price, over and over again.*
It's been well documented that Super Bowl ads are quantitatively different from normal TV ads. And every other form of advertising you see in magazines, on billboards, or on your computer.
The quantitative argument for Super Bowl ads being reasonably priced would proceed with some simple math. More than 100 million people watch the Super Bowl. Compare that to 20 million people, on average, watching Sunday Night Football in 2012; or 12 million watching The X-Factor; or 4 million watching 30 Rock. On a per-person, per-30-second basis, those numbers suggest that a Super Bowl viewer is worth twice as much as somebody watching The X-Factor or 30 Rock (which can be DVR'd, so the ads can be skipped) -- or 33 percent more valuable than somebody watching a Sunday Night Football game.