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Why Canadian Super Bowl viewers won't get to see noteworthy U.S. ads

Workers are seen on stage at Times Square as preparations continue for Super Bowl XLVIII in New York, January 27, 2014.


Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail's marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.

It's enough to make anyone feel a tad inferior. With every new Super Bowl, the price tag for ads in the U.S. climbs higher into the stratosphere – orbiting around $4-million for 30-seconds this year – while Canadians are, largely, an afterthought.

We don't see many of the high-profile ads here, because the U.S. signal is swapped out on cable and satellite for whatever Canadian station is carrying the big game (CTV this year.) But that's not the only reason: aside from some exceptions, many U.S. advertisers don't bother to buy time here (even though reaching the Canadians watching the big game comes at a fraction of the price.) Those who do buy commercial time will sometimes opt to run their usual Canadian campaigns because it can be a pain to rejig American-made commercials to get in line with Canadian rules, or because the tone of their campaign is designed for a U.S. audience.

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But what can often irk Canadians most is not watching the same old ads they see any other night of the week; it's the seemingly unending parade of network promos that the Canadian broadcaster runs. Why are there so many?

First of all, it's an attempt to harness a big opportunity: last year's Super Bowl drew more than seven million viewers, according to CTV. That's a far bigger audience than most TV shows are capable of drawing these days. Part of the benefit of the big game for the broadcaster is the opportunity to use that time – and those captive audiences – to push their regularly scheduled programs.

This is the plan by the numbers: CTV has set aside five 30-second spots during the game to promote its shows. That's one commercial per quarter, and one in the halftime show.

But if that number seems low, it's because there are a slew of shorter promos that run between 5 and 15 seconds that CTV has on hand to air throughout the broadcast. It's harder to say how many times those will run.

That's because of the rhythm of a live show. The shorter promos are there to cover unscheduled dead time that occurs because of injuries, time-outs, or other delays (like last year's stadium blackout, in a particularly extreme example).

During those delays, U.S. broadcaster Fox will run its own network promos in the U.S., and CTV's spots will run over those on its feed here.

The network plans to promote programming on Bell Media-owned networks including The Oscars on CTV, next season's roster of NFL games, The Masters and Tradecentre on TSN, and shows such as CTV's Masterchef Canada and Spun out, and Orphan Black on Space.

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