Profile America: First TV Commercial

“America runs on Bulova time.” That declaration was the entire audio portion of the first advertisement appearing on a commercial television station. The rather subdued ad was broadcast on New York station WBNT this month in 1941, the first TV ad with the sanction of the Federal Communications Commission. The 10-second TV commercial appeared in a Brooklyn Dodgers game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Consisting of nothing more than the image of a ticking clock, the ad cost Bulova just $9.

TV commercials have grown vastly more sophisticated since the 1941 experiment. Creating new commercials contributes to the $60 billion in annual revenue earned by the nation’s 14,400 video and motion picture production outlets.

Profile America is in its 22nd year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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