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CTV unveils ad contest to take on U.S. Super Bowl commercials

In this Jan. 29, 2014 file photo, the Super Bowl XLVIII Roman Numerals are unveiled in New York.

Doug Benc/AP

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.

Canadians annually gripe about not being able to watch the glitzy TV ads that are as much a part of the Super Bowl spectacle as the game itself. Now, CTV wants to fix that – but not necessarily by showing those ads.

On Thursday, CTV parent company Bell Media announced a contest designed to convince Canada's advertising community to step it up a notch when it comes to their big-game ads.

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The network has teamed up with the Canadian Marketing Association to run the competition, "with the goal of rallying the Canadian industry to create ads that truly compete with U.S. commercials," according to a statement.

The winner of the contest with the best ad will receive free airtime on CTV during the Super Bowl broadcast next year.

More details about the contest rules will be revealed when it officially launches in the coming weeks.

Canadians don't see many of the buzzed-about ads because the signal is swapped out for CTV's signal. (The exception being Canadians who use antennas to pick up unadulterated TV signals from across the border.)

That happens because broadcasters pay for the rights to a program in a geographic area – that applies to the fee CTV pays to be the exclusive broadcaster of the Super Bowl in Canada, as well as to all other broadcasters who buy U.S. sitcoms and other programming to show here. Those investments are recouped by selling air time to advertisers that want to reach the Canadians who tune in. In the case of the Super Bowl, that's millions of consumers advertisers could reach.

By leaving the American signal in place, showing those glitzy ads that the U.S. networks charge upward of $4-million (U.S.) to air, CTV would not be able to promise advertisers the viewership on which their ad prices are based.

And much to the chagrin of Canadian viewers, those U.S. advertisers often don't bother to pay for their ads to air here as well (even though the Canadian price tag is a fraction of what they pay to air on Fox, for example.)

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CTV is hoping a solution is to simply convince Canadian advertisers to live up to the example south of the border.

And for those really wanting to see the U.S. parade of cute puppies and celebrities, there's always the Internet.

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