In recent months, FTX paid $17.5 million to sponsor the athletic teams at the University of California, Berkeley; introduced a $20 million advertising campaign with the football star Tom Brady and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen; and teamed with the Coachella music festival to offer NFTs, or nonfungible tokens. It has the naming rights to the Miami Heat basketball team’s home arena, which it bought for $135 million.
But the ad unfolded at a particularly frenzied pace. After buying Super Bowl slot in August, FTX and the ad agency dentsuMB spent about two weeks fielding a flurry of ideas and some 80 scripts before a concept by Andrew Hunter, a creative director at dentsuMB, was picked. In November, Mr. David said he wanted in, and six weeks were spent ad-libbing and negotiating with his team over video calls.
The ad then went through 280 hours of editing, winnowing 7.5 hours of raw footage into 60 seconds. (A further 200 hours went into crafting teasers.) A rough cut was presented to FTX on Jan. 17, a mere nine days after filming ended, followed by a volley of revisions alongside work on teasers and special effects. The final commercial was delivered to NBCUniversal on Monday.
NBC charged as much as $7 million for 30 seconds of commercial airtime during the game. And there were other expenses: the ad and public relations agencies 360i, dentsu X and Mitchell in addition to dentsuMB; the production company Partizan; and editors at Mackcut.
Then there was the cost of decorating, for one of the 12 scenes shot for the commercial, the great hall of a castle with mounted stag skulls, a stuffed peacock, hundreds of candles with artistically hand-melted wax, two Irish wolfhounds, courtiers with plastic face shields resting lightly on pearl-lined ruffs. All so Mr. David, in full Elizabethan regalia, could lambaste the invention of the toilet.
As the FTX spot was shooting, a surge of coronavirus cases led to the shutdown of several other productions around Los Angeles. Partizan asked workers to produce negative PCR tests, submit vaccine questionnaires, upload proof of vaccination and sit for nose swabs inside their cars. The production company handed out more than 900 high-filtration masks.