Ten of the Most Expensive Brand & Product Promotions of All Time

Most Expensive Product Promotions of All Time
Scott Kalapos on May 4, 2022

At 4AllPromos, we strive to provide low cost promotional products that always deliver the highest quality. However, today we're going to be talking about ten of the most expensive promotions of all time. It's not exactly a "top ten most expensive promotions" article. Due to inflation, some ads that cost a lot by the standards of their day don't seem as extravagant now. Sill, we're going to share ten astoundingly expensive pieces of promotional peddling with you, along with some videos depicting them.

1. Pepsi - "Now and Then" Featuring Britney Spears

In the early 2000s, Britney Spears was everywhere. She was one of, if not the biggest, pop star in the world. That's why producing any promotions in which she starred would cost a pretty penny. However, in 2002, Pepsi aired two legendary ads during Super Bowl XXXVI in which Spears took center stage. In truth, it was really one ad that was separated into two, but we'll get to that.

The commercial, titled "Now and Then", showed Britney Spears and a variety of back-up dancers consuming and singing about Pepsi. Each scene depicted a different era, with recreations of pop culture tropes from 1958, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1989, and the then-present 2002 being displayed. The idea was to use Pepsi's ongoing theme of being the choice of a generation. The commercial was made available to members of certain Yahoo groups before the Super Bowl. These users voted on which era they liked best, which would then be aired as its own 30 second spot after the full version appeared in an earlier commercial break.

Between the extravagant set costs, featuring a pop superstar, the large cast, and the overall high price tag of airing a Super Bowl commercial, these ads cost Pepsi $8.1 million, equal to approximately $12,937,194 today.

2. Chanel No 5 Featuring Nicole Kidman

The second expensive promotional production we'll get into was made in 2004. This ad is notable, as its $33 million cost (and that's in 2004 dollars) has yet to be equaled by any advertisement since. Even an Estee Lauder commercial that was literally shot in outer space in 2020 didn't break the $33 million barrier. This is even more impressive when one considers that in 2022, the relative cost of the ad is $50,225,685.

This advertisement featured world-famous actress Nicole Kidman along with an actor by the name of Rodrigo Santoro. It has a definite fantasy/fairy tale theme to it. Strangely, Kidman takes on the role of sort of a reverse Cinderella. Rather than wanting to be at the big ball and gain fame, she wants to be with a love who can help her to get away from it all. Santoro's character is said to be the only person in the world who did not know who Nicole Kidman was. Once they meet, they go through a series of dramatic steps to arrive back at Santoro's apartment, which is topped by a gigantic Chanel advertisement on the roof.

Eventually, Kidman knows she has to return to her life as a celebrity, and thus leaves her love to attend an awards show. When walking the red carpet, she looks back at the Chanel ad topped apartment building and smiles. After this, she turns around to reveal a diamond pendant on her back which forms the words "No 5".

Having just completed a wildly successful role in the film Moulin Rouge, Kidman's appearance in the commercial was a costly one. Her flowing gown, diamond pendant, and the elaborate production value didn't exactly save money either. Regardless, it was a famous ad that got people talking and buying the product, so Chanel can chalk it up as a victory.

3. Microsoft - "Empowering" Featuring Steve Gleason

Yet another Super Bowl commercial, Microsoft's "Empowering" ad ran in 2014. This commercial was one that played heavily on the emotions, even if it was a bit less visually stimulating than some of the other promotions on this list. In it, former NFL player Steve Gleason, who is affected by ALS, uses a voice synthesizer to explain what technology means to him. Throughout the ad, we're shown innovations driven by Microsoft which have helped to improve the lives of people with disabilities. We see a deaf woman hear for the first time, a man who has lost his eyesight being able to return to his love of painting, a father being able to view the birth of his child in real time despite not being there physically, and athletes excelling with the use of prosthetic limbs. The commercial ends with Gleason sitting in a wheelchair with his infant son in his lap, proclaiming that technology "gives a voice to the voiceless".

Costing $8 million when it was produced, this commercial's expense comes out to $9,715,599 when adjusted for inflation in 2022.

4. Guinness - "Tipping Point"

In 2007, Guinness promoted its wares with one of the most impressive ads of all time in terms of difficulty. Shot in Iruya, a small village in the country of Argentina, this commercial starts inside of a small building where some men are beginning what looks to be a domino rally. Quickly, we see that there are a lot more than just dominos in this setup, as it quickly winds out a window and starts heading down the village streets. Books, tires, flaming bales of hay, paint cans, metal barrels, refrigerators, and even cars end up tipping into each other and falling over, as the domino effect continues. At the end, a large pile of books is struck, the pages of which fall open in vertical rows. This eventually forms a large statue of a Guinness bottle.

Between the remote location of the filming, transportation costs, a very large cast, and several takes being required to get everything just right, things got pretty expensive. Ultimately, the promotion cost $16 million, the equivalent of $22,185,876 today.

5. Plymouth Duster - "Dust Factory"

In 1984, an advertisement for the Plymouth Duster was created which originally aired during the MTV Movie Awards. It's an advertisement that was in a way a victim of its own success. We say this because it generated a great deal of conversation that ultimately led to it being aired very few times. This is a commercial that is truly as 80s as it gets. Neon lights, elaborate acrobatics, a powerfully-voiced female singer with big hair, and a few Billy Idol lookalikes in the background make it an unmistakable product of its era. That's not the only way in which the 80s loomed large with this ad.

The commercial depicted an industrial setting that was somewhat of a combination of an indoor scene and an outdoor scene at night. Playing on the name of the car, the location was said to be a dust factory. The smashing of glass and churning of machinery in the background produced a snow-like white powder that drifted everywhere. Many viewers posited that this was a cocaine reference, and as a result, this very expensive advertisement saw very limited airtime.

6. UK Lottery - EuroMillions

This is a promotion that is unique among the others in this article as it was not the company running it who bled big bucks. In the UK, a company called Camelot operates the national lottery. One of their biggest games is EuroMillions, which is similar to the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpot games that are famous in the USA. The large prizes are heavily promoted, spurring the public to buy an astronomical number of tickets. Dorset, a city in southwestern England, was site location in which the winning ticket was sold in a 2019 contest. There was only one hitch - nobody every claimed the prize.

The jackpot was worth 41 million British Pounds, equal to $57,930,170 today. When it went unclaimed, there was a large scramble to find the rightful winner. The final deadline to do so was May 31, 2020, a date that came and went without the winner being determined. As a result, whoever did purchase the winning ticket missed out on a huge payday, leading to this being the largest unclaimed prize of all time. The money was invested in various national charities, so at least we can be happy to know it went to good use.

7. Coca-Cola - "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"

This 1971 commercial from Coca-Cola was one of the few advertisements that ever went on to inspire multiple mainstream musicians to create their own covers. The catchy tune sung by flower children in this advertisement grew from interesting routes. Bill Backer, an advertising executive for the company that managed Coca-Cola's promotions at the time, was marooned at an airport in Ireland during an overnight delay. He, along with singer/songwriters Billy Davis and Roger Cook were growing short tempered and arguing among themselves. While night turned into day, Backer observed several airport patrons happily chatting and laughing over bottles of Coca-Cola. This inspired him to write "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" on a napkin, which he passed to Cook and his musical partner Roger Greenway.

From this, the idea of a promotional campaign centered around the idea of Coca-Cola building peace and harmony was born. A modestly successful radio commercial was released in early 1971, featuring Susan Shirley on vocals. Later that year, a commercial was shot on a hilltop just outside of Rome. This hilltop was populated by scores of young people of different ethnicities and national origins. All of them were lip synching to the now-famous "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" as they held bottles of Coke. The camera zooms in on the bottles a bit during the ad, showing the different labels they bear in different parts of the world. The message of peace and unity was quite well received, with groups including The Hillside Singers and The New Seekers producing cover versions, both of which heavily referenced Coca-Cola.

Though the commercial cost only $250,000 to produce, one must remember that this was in 1971. Adjusted for inflation, the equivalent cost in 2022 would have been $1,774,716. While that's not as big of a tab as the others on this list, it's still a pretty hefty chunk of change.

8. Pepsi - "Street" and "Concert" Featuring the Jacksons

Unlike the 2002 promotion featuring Britney Spears, this ad campaign from Pepsi actually did feature two separately created commercials. Shot in 1984, these advertisements featured Michael Jackson alongside brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Randy. Together, the 6 performed as "The Jacksons" and at the time, few stars in the world of music were shining as brightly.

The first commercial saw a young Alfonso Ribeiro (later known for his roles on Silver Spoons and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) wearing a Thriller-style jacket and single glove while copying the dance moves of Michael Jackson. With a Pepsi in hand, he dances alongside a group of friends, all of whom are stunned by the sudden appearance of the Jacksons. The pop stars dance along with the kids for a bit, while singing lyrics about Pepsi to the tune of "Billie Jean". This now-famous came at a cost of $2 million.

The second advertisement, going by the name of "Concert", was filmed shortly after. Costing a whopping $5 million, this commercial depicted the Jacksons preparing for a concert backstage while an excited crowd consumed Pepsi outside. The big moment of the commercial took place when Michael Jackson emerged from the background and came down a set of stairs, as fireworks and other pyrotechnic effects lit up all around him. Tragically, this is when his hair caught on fire, leading to severe injuries for which Jackson would require pain medications for the rest of his life.

Together, the two commercials totaled $7 million, roughly equivalent to $19,369,856 today.

9. Chrysler - "Imported from Detroit" Featuring Eminem

The ninth pricy promotion we'll take a look at is yet another advertisement that made its debut during the Super Bowl. This particular commercial was first aired in 2011 and promoted the Chrysler 200. With imports taking the country by storm and Detroit seeing a declining reputation in the public eye, this ad chose to get straight to the point. It emphasized Detroit's rich history, colored and controversial past and present, and unequalled experience in the auto making industry.

This two-minute long ad featured Detroit native Eminem, a figure who is no stranger to controversy, the gritty streets of Detroit, and a mixed public perception. Throughout the commercial, scenes of urban Detroit are displayed, as a voiceover tells the tale of Detroit's character, car producing prowess, and its struggles with an image bestowed upon it by the mass media. Eminem's "Lose Yourself" is borrowed from during the commercial, with the rapper making an appearance at the end of the ad. Entering a theater and taking the stage alongside a large choir, he states, "This is the Motor City, and this is what we do."

At a cost of $12.4 million, the expense of this ad translates to $15,848,962 in 2022.

10. Tide - "It's a Tide Ad"

The final highly expensive promotion we'll discuss in this article was made in 2018. Advertising Tide detergent, this commercial cost $8.9 million to produce and air. The fact that it was aired during Super Bowl LII had more than a little bit to do with the high cost, which is the present equivalent of $10,190,021.

This commercial takes an interesting tactic, as it keeps leading the viewer to think a different product is being advertised. Narrated by and starring David Harbour, the commercial at first looks like it's going to be for a car, and then beer. This is interrupted by a cowboy and a farmer leaning up against a fence and declaring, "No, it's a Tide ad."

As the commercial progresses, advertisements that appear to be for soda, mattresses, diamonds, tech items, and mechanic services are shown. All of these are then revealed to also be commercials for Tide. When asked how these commercials can be Tide ads, Harbour points out that all of them feature brilliantly stainless clothes, and that's where Tide comes in. It then cuts to a man watching TV with his family and asking rather nervously, "Does that make every Super Bowl ad a Tide ad?"

We hope you've had fun reading about and watching the stories of some of the most expensive promotions of all time. If you're looking to promote your own brand and wish to spend less than these companies did, 4AllPromos is here to help. We have a wide variety of affordable promotional products as well as low minimum order premium promo items to help your organization meet its goals. Reach out to us today to get started!

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