Deconstructing the Next Big Thing – MIXX Canada Direct

MIXX Canada took place this month in Toronto attracting marketers, agencies, publishers and ad tech. The event was entitled “Direct and the Data Explosion” and was themed around the acceleration of DTC brands and the incredible amount of data that underpins the new economy.  IAB Canada was so fortunate to have the legendary Erica Ehm as MC for the day.

The morning kicked off with a marvellous presentation by Kumar Mehta Ph.D., Author of The Innovation Biome. Mehta discussed the science of cultivating corporate environments that enable innovation. As our industry looks to re-imagine its identity and value proposition to increasingly elusive consumers, the need for innovation is at an all-time high. Mehta took the audience through a model that dispelled some misconceptions around planning for innovation. A key take-away was that the “next big thing” is more likely to be a reconfiguration of what is here and now.

Katherine Scarrow, GM of the Globe Content studio moderated a fascinating fireside chat with Tyler Handley, Co-Founder & CEO Inkbox, a homegrown DTC brand that has created a tattoo creative community, and Mike Maleszyk, VP Growth and Marketing of, to discuss the engagement framework that was used to bring Inkbox from its small beginnings to an international company. One that has the admirable position of first to market in the lucrative business of temporary tattoos.

Justin Pang, Head of Partnerships at Google and Jennifer Lee, Partner at Deloitte reviewed fresh industry research around digital relationship building in Canada, providing key insights into future-proofing your business through digital media. Key take-aways included the reality that success is directly tied to becoming an insight-driven organization. Consistent with recent discussions with IAB Canada members, Google and Deloitte underlined that despite the tremendous amounts of data we have access to today, the majority of organizations are in the weeds on metrics and are not leveraging data to uncover major opportunities tied to the bigger picture.

IAB Canada was extremely excited to have a second homegrown DTC player hit the stage as Chris Stefanyk, Head of Brand Partnerships of Wattpad told the story of the Canadian platform that democratized content creation. What was found to be particularly fascinating was how Wattpad uses AI to uncover content that is destined for success. With case studies around community co-creation and resulting movie licenses and high impact branded content, the audience was blown away with the broad scope and potential of the platform as a player in the direct economy.

Erin Elofson, Country Manager at Pinterest Canada held an insightful fireside chat with Aila Morin, Director of Brand Marketing of Mejuri, a DTC luxury jewellery brand. They discussed the idea of top funnel activity and the path to purchase from an imagery-inspired perspective. The talk made it clear that there are some brands that are very well suited to image-first channels and unpacked the nuances behind distributed online merchandising.

Andrea Cook, President of FCB/SIX gave a compelling presentation about the future of advertising being “individual”. The talk featured great case studies that showcased how data-led creativity can deliver on personalized experiences that ultimately build relationships. Andrea underscored a theme heard throughout the day around tying together what data and assets already exist citing that a 180°results sometimes require 180 individual steps to become fully realized.

Catherine Bate, Chief Legal & Policy Officer, Advertising Standards Canada took the stage to highlight some real-life examples of creative ads that sometimes inadvertently stumble into violation of well-established advertising codes. In a fast-paced world of direct advertising where CEOs are often the media designers and buyers, existing codes are often left unobserved. IAB Canada, as an active Board Member at Ad Standards, remains committed to communicating the codes to digital advertisers.

Simon Jenkins, Creative Strategist and International Performance Lead at SNAP Inc. discussed the realities around consumers’ time and attention becoming diminishing commodities. The presentation highlighted AR as a high attention and high intent space, where high-craft experiences are changing the way brands tell stories and drive performance on mobile. Simon showed some colourful examples of eCommerce enabled AR applications and helped bring the audience closer to a realistic use-case for the platform.

The final presentation of the day was delivered by Mark Miller, Chief Strategy Officer, Team One, & Founder, The Legacy Lab. Mark presented some key insights from his book,”Legacy in the Making: Building a Long-Term Brand to Stand Out in a Short Term-World.” Mark’s timely presentation discussed the world of authenticity and corporate social responsibility through the lens of best practices. The presentation included amazing case studies of brands that have stood the test of time by sticking to their original DNA. This was such a wonderful closing to the event as it tied together the themes around innovating against existing purpose, developing meaningful relationships, and building brands that weather storms simply because they adapt and innovate to changing market demands all while allowing their past to act as their compass.