It’s one heck of an expense to track.
At an estimated cost of $5.25 million just to air its 30-second ad, Expensify, a San Francisco company whose software tracks expenses, will debut its first ever national advertising campaign this weekend during the Super Bowl.
The commercial — a music video about making a music video — features rapper 2 Chainz filming a music video with “Parks and Recreation” actor Adam Scott playing the head of finance for a record label asking the rapper to file receipts for all of the costs of filming.
Expensify isn’t new to advertising. In 2011, it placed a billboard in San Francisco off Interstate 80 in conjunction with a big tech conference. But the 2 Chainz commercial is Expensify’s first real effort to appeal to a broader audience for managing receipts and filing expense reports.
More than 60,000 businesses use Expensify’s mobile app and websites to scan receipts and automate expense reports, but with the Super Bowl ad, the company is hoping to send a message to people outside of the business community.
“We want to get in the hands of everyone in the world who spends money,” Expensify CEO David Barrett said.
Expensify has relied primarily on word of mouth to grow its business, Barrett said, and advertising with the Super Bowl was a way to magnify that. Barrett wouldn’t disclose how much the company spent on the ad — besides CBS’ fee, there’s the cost of hiring 2 Chainz and Scott and making the commercial — but he called it a relatively cheap and effective way to reach some 114 million people.
With the game being played in Atlanta, 2 Chainz was a good fit because he’s from the Atlanta area and also has a cable show called “Most Expensivest,” Barrett said.
“Every single business has an expense problem. … We’re trying to highlight that this is a universal problem,” Barrett said. “It affects the coolest people in the world, it affects the most boring people in the world.”
Expensify charges businesses $5 to $9 per employee a month, and also offers individual plans. Users who don’t scan many receipts may be able to use it for free. Expensify estimates that a business with 20 employees submitting expense reports might save about $3,000 a month using its software versus paying workers to submit and process reports manually.
SAP, a large German software company, is Expensify’s biggest competitor; it charges small businesses an average of $8 a report to use its Concur software, according to SAP’s website.
Tech companies have been a presence in the Super Bowl going back years. Apple’s famous “1984” ad that year served as the debut of the Macintosh computer. During the dot-com bubble, companies like Pets.com and E-Trade bought pricey ads at a time when many consumers had yet to venture online. Since then, tech companies have preferred to buy online ads to drive sales whose performance they can carefully monitor. But even today, those lack the brand-boosting ability of a splashy television ad.
Expensify, founded in 2008, hasn’t taken on the eye-popping sums of money that some San Francisco startups have. It raised $27.2 million from investors and borrowed $11 million in June from CIBC, according to Crunchbase, the startup database. Barrett said the company is profitable.
The idea to advertise during the Super Bowl first came up two years ago, Barrett said, and the company had to make some changes to make it easier to buy the product, such as adding the ability to sign up with just a phone number, a more consumer-friendly approach than the email address it previously required.
As part of the campaign, viewers can download the Expensify app and photograph receipts of the items in the video. They can submit the receipts until Feb. 4 for a chance to win cash or the items themselves, which include an Audi R8, an ice-sculpted sports car, a diamond-encrusted football and a gold 2 Chainz bust.
Expensify joins a slew of other tech companies advertising in the Super Bowl this year, including Amazon and Microsoft. Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, is the only other Bay Area company in the Super Bowl ad lineup, according to AdAge.
Sophia Kunthara is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SophiaKunthara