SuperBowl Ads in Canada: It’s Just Not the Same

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Some people watch for the game, others for the halftime show, and others just for the advertisements. Every year, the Super Bowl brings entertaining content to all types of audiences. In the United States, the Super Bowl is consistently the most watched TV event of the year; therefore, large companies shell out millions to buy commercial slots for creative and intriguing advertisements to capture the interest of American viewers. Unfortunately, for Canadian viewers, these sometimes iconic American advertisements are no longer shown on Canadian networks and have been replaced by local and national Canadian commercials.

In years past, Canadian viewers had the option to watch the Super Bowl on American based networks, which included the American commercials, or watch on the Canadian broadcast providers. A Supreme Court decision made in December has finally forced Canadian viewers to watch Canadian network commercials.

Viewers were outraged that they could not view the commercials in the following years — so much so that the CRTC ended up changing its ruling.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) had previously allowed for “simultaneous substitution” in Super Bowl and other television feeds. Essentially, this allowed the Canadian broadcasting networks to “substitute” their Super Bowl stream, with that from the American network, which was an identical program playing at the same time. The implications of simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl in Canada, were that the American advertisements would also be shown to Canadian consumers. In 2016, the CRTC ruled that this practice was “against the public interest” when it came to U.S. Super Bowl commercials, as it took away from Canadian business advertising opportunities. Viewers were outraged that they could not view the commercials in the following years– so much so that the CRTC ended up changing its ruling. Yet, Bell Media, which had acquired the license from the NFL in 2013 to broadcast the Super Bowl, claimed that the decision to reverse the original ruling cost them millions of dollars in lost marketing revenue. They challenged the decision and launched a court battle; the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in favour of Bell Media, reversing the CRTC rule chance in December 2019, and once again forcing Canadian advertisements to be shown during the Super Bowl.

This decision opens the door for a Canadian market that is highly engaged with the Super Bowl. Even as the most viewed TV event in the United States, only 51% of Americans watch it, compared to 55% percent of Canadians. In addition, commercials in the United States cost upwards of $5 million for a 30 second slot, whereas they cost approximately $200,000 for an identical commercial slot in Canada. Combining higher viewer share with the significantly lower advertising costs in Canada, it was calculated that for every dollar spent, there are 2.4 more Canadian viewers than American ones. Canadian firms are therefore optimistic to capitalize on this opportunity to effectively reach a large audience, “The Super Bowl is consistently one of the top live TV moments for Canadian audiences, so we’re excited about the ability to share a Canadian story with millions of Canadians…we don’t think there’s any reason that Canadian Super Bowl ads can’t be on the same level of craft and entertainment as the mega-budget ads aired on the U.S. feed,” said a Canadian executive. Canadian companies are increasingly taking advantage of this unique marketing opportunity, yet American companies still have the right to purchase these commercial slots on the Canadian network, which is why some American ads still get played on the Canadian stream.

Even as the most viewed TV event in the United States, only 51% of Americans watch it, compared to 55% percent of Canadians.

While Canadian viewers may be upset that they do not get all the unique commercials from American advertisers in real time during the Super Bowl, almost all are normally posted on YouTube and other internet sources so that they can catch up. Furthermore, as many of these advertisements typically relate to American consumers and their ideals, the ability of Canadian businesses to publish creative commercials that will capture the interest of and relate to their Canadian consumers should be appreciated as a way to make the Super Bowl watching experience feel more intrinsically Canadian.

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