Photo above: A shot from our new campaign. If you want to see who that ping pong player is, you'll have to wait until Super Bowl Sunday.
A month ago, if you’d told me, as CEO of Wealthsimple, that we’d be advertising during the Super Bowl, I’d have said you were crazy. Super Bowl ads are insanely expensive. If you know one thing about them, that’s what you know. They’re flashy, overpriced, and all about bragging rights. Exactly the sort of stuff we strive to avoid at Wealthsimple, where we nerd out on things like diversification and low costs. When we finished shooting our first ad campaign (we’re pretty excited about it!), we looked into the costs of running an ad during the Super Bowl and it seemed like our suspicions were true: It runs 5 million U.S. dollars for a 30-second ad in America. But we also discovered there’s a key clause in that sentence: in America. We found out, to our surprise, that in Canada it costs only $170,000 CAD.
Now, that’s a lot of money. And, you might be saying, there are fewer people in Canada. Not to mention that those people may not be as interested in the Super Bowl. Well, it turns out that a higher percentage of Canadians watched the Super Bowl last year than Americans: 51 percent in the U.S. and 55 percent here.
And odds are that the proportion will only get bigger — Super Bowl viewership is up 26 percent since 2010 in Canada and just 7 percent in America. Still, since there are more people in America, we wondered whether, per capita, you’re still getting a better deal by running your ad in the U.S. Nope. This year your $5,000,000 (USD) ad should cost $43.86 per 1,000 viewers (that’s how they measure cost in advertising – price per thousand viewers).
In Canada your $170,000 (CAD) ad will have a cost per thousand viewers of $18.48 — that’s 58 percent less than the USA. You get 2.4x as many viewers in Canada for every dollar spent. That’s literally more than twice the bang for your buck. (By the way, the number of Canadians who watch the Super Bowl — 9,200,000 people — is almost twice the viewership of the Stanley Cup!)
OK, so now we were interested. Still, we wondered: Is advertising just cheaper in Canada? Are advertisers still paying a premium to say they had a Super Bowl ad instead of an ad that reached the same number of viewers for a less high-profile event? Not really. Super Bowl ads are cheap compared to other TV events.
We discovered that this deal is limited-time-only. The government recently announced that, for the first time, it’s going to allow Super Bowl ads purchased in the U.S. to air in Canada starting in 2017. That likely means the costs will go way up. So if we just convinced you that a Super Bowl ad is a smart investment, we’re sorry: If you didn’t buy one this year, you probably missed out.
So if you’re wondering why an investments startup (for the record, with 10,000 customers and $400 million in assets under management, we don’t really think of ourselves as a startup) would take out a Super Bowl ad, that’s it. It makes a pretty good investment. And we figured it was a great way to launch our new ad campaign: Take Care of Yourself. It’s all about making good decisions so your future self will be happy you did. Even if you don’t watch the game, you'll be seeing the campaign all over Canada in the coming months. That's another reason that we decided to buy the Super Bowl–it's the beginning of more to come.
Oh, and one note about how we made these ads. We wanted to line up the best of the best, so we hired people like the cinematographer and set designer who did Drake’s Hotline Bling. But we didn’t use a big agency, we made them in-house. That’s because we like smart investments and we figured there were better things to do with our money. And also because it’s always better to be more efficient. We’re all about that.
Notes: (1) we ignored the impact of currency for this analysis. At today's exchange rate, a Canadian Super Bowl ad is an even better investment. (2) CPMs are for audiences aged 2+.