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A Super Bowl flag hangs from a balcony in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Feb. 1, 2013. (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)
A Super Bowl flag hangs from a balcony in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Feb. 1, 2013. (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)

Super Bowl to kick off cross-border ad action Add to ...

For advertisers, the Super Bowl is a nice bit of conspicuous consumption.

The blockbuster prices for a 30-second spot in the U.S. are well publicized (roughly $3.8-million U.S. this year), and that’s not even counting the kind of high production budgets it takes to produce something with enough sheen to keep company in the crowded telecast. It shows those advertisers have money to spend, and a powerful brand.

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And this year, some Canadian companies are joining the fray. There are a few ponying up the cash to be part of the CBS action in the States. Here in Canada, of course, we don’t see all the U.S. ads, because of regulatory constraints, so the CBS feed and its commercials are blocked. CTV pays money for the rights to the program and has to be able to sell ads (which run closer to $300,000 Canadian, according to some sources) to justify that investment.

That creates pent-up demand among Canadian viewers for the shiny ads their American brethren look forward to. Some of the Canadian audience can hunt those down online. But advertisers also recognize that airing something special during the Canadian broadcast is an opportunity to build a bit of goodwill.

Here, a look at some of the cross-border traffic in Super Bowl advertising this Sunday.

CANADIAN COMPANIES HEADING SOUTH

The most prominent Canadian brand trying to make a splash is of course BlackBerry. Research In Motion Ltd. is holding back on the ad until Sunday, forgoing the now-common practice of teasing ads online to build buzz. But the idea is to keep BlackBerry on the minds of U.S. customers, who face a delay between this week’s unveiling of the new BlackBerry 10 device and its availability in stores, in March. RIM decided it needed a splash in the market where it faces some of the biggest hurdles.

“There is swagger in it. It’s cutting edge. It shows self-confidence,” chief marketing officer Frank Boulben said in an interview Friday. “It was very important to find a way to signal to the consumer that BlackBerry is back.”

Bank of Montreal is also getting in the game, with a spot that will air across Wisconsin, as well as in Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis and Phoenix, where the company operates under the BMO Harris brand. It has been working toward more awareness since bringing the Midwestern M&I bank brand, which it purchased in 2011, under the BMO Harris banner in November.

“For the last three months, we’ve been just introducing the BMO Harris brand,” said chief marketing officer Doug Stotz. “We got our pencils out and looked at what the viewership would be in those markets, and the millions of people that would see the Super Bowl versus pulling together those millions by advertising in Modern Family or what have you. … There’s statement value.”

And Gildan Activewear Inc., which is sold in stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and dollar stores in the States, is also running a spot . It features a man sneaking away from a one-night stand – an effort complicated by the fact that his date is asleep in his T-shirt. The message is intended to resonate with men aged 22 to 34.

“They’ve got printed T-shirts from Gildan in their drawer already but they may not know that we make it,” said Rob Packard, vice-president of marketing and merchandising for Gildan USA. (It’s a challenge the brand also faces in Canada, where it is a prominent wholesale brand but is fighting for name recognition.) “We have decided that 2013 is the year that we’re going to make a big investment in the brand.”

ADVERTISERS TRYING FOR AN IMPACT UP HERE

While Canada is mostly known as a hockey country, the Super Bowl is a big event here, too. And advertisers are starting to recognize they need to make a splash to make Canadian viewers take notice.

Budweiser won plenty of brand equity with its Flash Fans commercial, made just for Canadian audiences last year – a tricky feat that used football to promote its connection to hockey after it lost its NHL sponsorship. Bud learned a lesson, and this year it is making a special ad once again – with teasers online to build anticipation.

The ads will introduce Budweiser red lights, which fans can purchase for $149 – they connect to a home wireless Internet connection, and once installed, are set to go off in consumers’ living rooms whenever their favourite hockey team scores a goal.

Flash Fans was a great example of … connecting with Canadian consumers, more so than anything in the hockey world had in the past couple of years,” said Kyle Norrington, marketing director for Labatt Breweries of Canada, speaking over the sounds of a marching band in New Orleans, where he will attend the game this Sunday. “This is a big idea that we think is really going to tap into hockey fans across the country.”

Hyundai Canada is hoping to stand out from the other auto makers re-running the same ads Canadians have already seen on TV. For a second year, it has made an ad just for the big game broadcast here.

McDonald’s Canada is also airing an ad in the Super Bowl here, further promoting a digital campaign that has netted it a lot of attention in the past six months. The Our Food. Your Questions campaign allowed people to ask unflattering questions online about McDonald’s food, which the company answered in frank video clips. The new Super Bowl ad features highlights of that digital effort. McDonald’s is expecting to reach roughly four million viewers on CTV with the spot.

“What we’re learning is that in today’s age, in terms of what customers are looking for, it’s for that honest, open, transparent relationship. We’ve been able to tap into that,” said McDonalds Canada chief marketing officer Joel Yashinsky. “This being a Canadian program, is something we’re very proud of. … The Super Bowl is the perfect place for it.”

 
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