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Can Canadians make a Super Bowl ad? Please?

The reason you don't see good ads North.

BlackBerry's Super Bowl ad for its new Z10 smartphone.

BlackBerry’s Super Bowl ad for its new Z10 smartphone.

It’s the same thing after every Super Bowl: Canadians grumbling about not being able to see the big, fancy new ads and instead being subjected to the same hum-drum fare they’ve seen a million times already. Which raises a simple question: Why don’t Canadian brands create their own special commercials for this uniquely watched event?

According to BBM Canada, last year’s Bowl drew 7.3 million viewers—almost double that of the Grey Cup at 4.4 million. So surely the audience is there to justify it. Marketer and Canadian Business columnist Bruce Philp thinks the efficacy of Super Bowl spending is overrated, but said Canada’s brand absence is a matter of simple economics. “In a market the size of the United States the idea of buying a spot for $4 million dollars and spending another million to produce it might somehow be justifiable when you divide it into the number of people who are going to see it. In Canada the cost of buying the spot may be a lot lower, but the cost of producing it won’t.”

Only one Canadian company, BlackBerry, ran a new Super-Bowl-specific ad during the game. Apparel maker Gildan sort of counted after running two ads, one for the U.S. market and another for Canada, but in fact both had previously, though very recently, aired. Everyone else, from Bell to BMO to Scotiabank and Tim Hortons re-ran ads you long ago grew sick of. A few companies, like BlackBerry, actually aired their Super Bowl ads in both markets. That distinction also goes to Samsung (Korea), Volkswagen (Germany) and Paramount Farms (U.S.).

Marketers suggest two factors conspiring against the creation of uniquely Canadian Super Bowl ads, both of which are ultimately related to money. One, according to Philp, is that the Canadian market is different in that most categories are dominated by just a few brands who have little need to generate awareness. And the remaining advertisers are too marginal to be able to afford the event’s high ad rates.  In the U.S. the level of competition is heavier so brands feel more pressure to spend on a Super Bowl. Dave Watson, creative director at Taxi, identified a second reason: with their more modest budgets Canadian advertisers may want to spend that money on many smaller hits throughout the year rather than on a single big one.

Nevertheless, he said it’s a missed opportunity given how many people are tuning in. “I think if they had great creative and they had something to actually come out and say, I think absolutely it is a missed opportunity. Other than maybe the Stanley Cup finals, to have a good portion of Canadian eyes on one television show it definitely would be something I would suggest to a client.”

I asked Watson if we might ever see advertiser attitudes change in the future. He said he was particularly impressed with the seat-of-the-pants Kraft Foods Oreo social media effort, which capitalized on the mid-game power failure and didn’t cost a cent. “That for me is what Canadian brands probably should be playing because with that the media buy was zero and they can get that talk value out there.”

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