Back Online – Literally.

By all accounts, the industry has come back online after a much-needed winter break. Many members are starting to reach out to get a sense of what we anticipate seeing over the coming months. Early indications are that digital is heading into another strong year as we encounter continued pandemic-related uncertainties.

In the final weeks of 2021, we provided some thoughts on the emerging supply chain shortage issue and its potential impact on our industry. In the first weeks of 2022, we continue to see reports about sparse shelves at grocery stores, price increases and more systemic concerns about the global outlook for the coming months. Omicron’s impact on the global labour force has added intense strain to the goods and services industry as governments struggle to adjust guidelines around testing and isolation requirements. While digital media continues to provide flexibility and a reliable means to address audiences for the huge demand on ecommerce, slowed delivery and supply issues are beginning to take its toll on what was initially a pandemic-proof channel. 

Encouragingly, we have seen the retail sector deploying strategies to help manage consumer expectations including the use of recommendation engines, notification services that will communicate when items become available again and generally, better filtering mechanisms within commerce enabled environments. While retailers cope with supply chain issues, consumers are increasingly reported as “not ok”. A recent survey released by Bromwich + Smith found that:

  • 48% of Canadians say the uncertainty they are facing in the first days of 2022 is weighing more heavily on them than during the initial lockdowns in March of 2020.
  • The number one stressor, reported by 82% of those surveyed, was inflation and an increase in the cost of living. This was followed by physical and mental health, at 70%, and COVID-19 restrictions at 66%. 

The mental and financial stress being experienced by Canadians could potentially have an impact on the pent-up demand that had been anticipated for 2022. Social media feeds filled with mental health-related content and declarations of resignations are also symptoms of a global labour crisis that is impacting every sector including the digital media industry. Job openings continue to soar and the competition for talent continues into the new year. Inflation is felt across the entire value chain from cost of labour and operations as well as a persistent strain on supply. IAB Canada is currently in-field with a Barometer Report to check on media cost inflation and will be reporting findings in February at our Digital for Reach event.

Digital media remains the channel of choice when flexibility is most valued. We are expecting another year of growth as more investments flow in from linear media. That is why 2022 will be a landmark year for measurability, raised standards and accurate valuation. We must not conflate inflation with market correction – it is well known that digital media has been undervalued. The tremendous amount of work accomplished over the past few years to address supply chain security, viewability and other issues that may have cast doubt on the value of a digital impression, has inevitably paid off.

With higher standards for the supply chain, come the increased responsibilities across the entire industry to ensure compliance with a patchwork of regulations that continue to emerge globally. 

Our work on privacy also continues as we near the launch of the global privacy platform to roll out in Canada first. Other areas of focus for us will be the online gaming regulations, elections law amendments and age-gating requirements for marketing to kids and youth. Finally, our social responsibilities continue this year with our collective work to promote equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) and our commitment to driving efficiencies in the digital supply chain from an environmental impact perspective. All this work must also be done while adjusting to the cookieless world of addressability! We have a busy year of work ahead and a lot of collaborating to do.

In the meantime, our industry continues to work from home and our interactions remain screen based. While it is not the way we had envisioned the start of 2022, our community remains strong and our commitment to one another to stay in this together is unshaken. We have a year of exciting content planned for our members and we look forward to navigating out of the pandemic stronger than ever. Let’s get started!