AD SPACE: The Super Bowl is one of the remaining real events on TV, something that has to be experienced in real time, preferably not alone. While primetime viewership erodes, an astounding 97 million U.S. viewers tuned into last year’s game, and NBC is counting on similar numbers for not just Sunday’s game, but the pre-game and half-time shows – and the commercials.

Super Bowl ad spots are premium products, and at least since Apple’s epochal 1984 ad launching the Macintosh computer with director Ridley Scott’s movie-quality visuals, Super Bowl commercials have been events. And for the most part, Canadians can’t see them.

Sim-subbing is the industry term for the pre-emption of the U.S. broadcast signal with the local one by cable and satellite providers, and it insures that Canadian viewers will only see the ads that CTV, the Super Bowl’s local broadcaster, has been paid to air. It’s standard industry practice, in effect whenever the same show airs simultaneously on both sides of the border, but there are some who say that it diminishes some of the game’s luster as an event.

“These ads are costly,” says Brian Steinberg, TV editor for Advertising Age magazine. “The production values add a couple of million dollars on top of the ad buy price … If you're a first timer or a small company who get into these things, they're probably blowing all of their marketing budget on one ad.”

With this kind of cash at stake, U.S. advertisers want to focus on their target market, says Steinberg. “I think the ads are aiming first at the US audience, and I don't think Canadians are the biggest users of GoDaddy, or these other one-shot ads.”

But Rick Brace, CTV’s president of Revenue, Business Planning and Sports, says that GoDaddy has bought time on his network’s broadcast, along with Nissan, Ford, Dodge, Kia, Labatt, Universal Studios and Pepsi, which has produced two spots especially for the Canadian market. While the buy-in for time on the Canadian broadcast isn’t as rich as the $3 million US NBC is asking for a 30-second spot – CTV won’t reveal what their spots cost, though Brace says “It's a premium product and we sell it as such,” – 4.2 million Canadian viewers did tune into last year’s game in English Canada, making it one of the top 4 TV events of the year.

Geography might mean a lot to a TV network, but it’s nearly irrelevant on the internet, and Brace says that most Super Bowl ads will be online within hours, even minutes, of their Sunday premiere. Steinberg says that for now, however, the broadcast event is still paramount. “They will be all over YouTube, but the biggest audience you'll get in one fell swoop will be on that TV screen ... It's nice to get some ancillary buzz, but the U.S. consumer base is their main customer.”

Pepsico Canada’s Super Bowl press release – with video – is here:

Previous Super Bowl ads are archived here: