IAB Canada State of the Nation – In the Trenches for Real Industry Conversations

IAB Canada kicked off the annual State of the Nation summit in Toronto this month. The event takes place across Canada, offering the industry a level-setting, up to date narrative on critical issues facing us today.

Three core areas of discussion included a “real” conversation around value in the online advertising landscape, the powerful force behind a direct economy that is fueled by first party data and the mounting concerns around Policy & Regulatory affairs that are creating a global levelling effect.


A Real Conversation on Value

As the industry begins to sober from its historical addiction to volume, the lens has sharpened focus on the very definition of value in the context of online advertising. IAB Canada’s keynote presentation stressed the importance of merging the “where”, the “what” and the “how” into the value equation. The overarching message was a rally cry to marketers to demand more of the channel while acknowledging that this requires dialed up intelligence and investment.

This discussion extended into audience measurement as Nielsen provided a robust view into in-target advertising and the importance of layering psychological insights into segment strategies.

Comscore further drove home the point that one size does not fit all when it comes to channel planning and showed the value of how scratching beneath the surface of audience numbers could deliver major differentiating actionable insights.

A fireside chat with Mike Zaneis, CEO of Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), an organization that is gaining global traction on delivering a trusted, open market supply chain through verifications and certifications, clearly showed the benefits of investing in a transparent supply chain. Zaneis cited a recent study that showed an 85% reduction in fraudulent activity when buyers and sellers engage exclusively in TAG certified market. Ironically, the biggest challenge to adoption is the inconsistency in marketer demand for certified inventory.

Benjamin Dick, Product Director at IAB Tech Lab presented the DataLabel.org project which is a transparency program designed to deliver a clear picture of how data sets are being segmented. The data base would be an open-sourced tool allowing advertisers to gain clear insights into how data was collected, when it was collected and several other factors like the definitions behind varying segments (i.e. how was an “auto intender” statistically determined). This an incredible step forward towards industry-driven transparency and a tool that helps advertisers develop authentic value equations behind their data investments.


The Direct Economy & The 1st Party Data Arms Race

With global economic factors driving favourable conditions for flexible, data-informed, direct to consumer product offerings the Direct Economy is poised to make a significant impact on the media and marketing landscape. With first party data driving virtually all areas of operations for these DTC brands, the race to gather, intelligently manage and leverage data is on. Recent media platform trends are indicating that native platform intelligence is a currency worth protecting. Changes to policies on cookies, tracking and consumer choices are signaling tighter controls on data transfer. This evolution will inevitably impact many aspects of online advertising.

Both Nielsen and Comscore reinforced the importance of gathering data and infusing segmentation strategies with much more sophisticated intelligence than flat demographics. The presentations were a stark reminder that many concepts around advanced data management are no longer future-state. Legacy brands in particular, must lean in and develop their data streams implementing an AI-like model.


Policy & Regulatory Affairs – the Great Leveler

On the first anniversary of the GDPR going into effect, the discussion around cross-border policy activity has reached a fever pitch. Recent proposals from the OPC seeking greater enforcement powers and enhanced transborder data privacy regulation, along with amendments to Canada’s privacy legislation (PIPEDA) have kept the Canadian privacy community busy in a non-stop discussion, submission and speculation loop.

The Prime Minister’s recent announcement of the Canadian Digital Charter has offered some solace to industry in that it promises to maintain a balanced direction that allows for continued innovation and also put a temporary stop to the Transborder data consultation which was guaranteed to create negative unintended consequences to our entire industry.

A panel discussion with Alex Propes, Senior Director, Public Policy & International, IAB Washington and Adam Kardash, Privacy & Data Management, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP discussed the higher stakes we are facing now on the Privacy front. Regulators continue to propose largely uniformed proposals to amend PIPEDA in ways that jeopardize the incredible opportunities for innovation in Canada that are uniquely tied to the data economy.

Other issues covered off included the recent amendment to the Elections Canada Act requiring publishers to maintain registries and advertisers to disclose political ads (including issues ads).

From a technical standpoint, Benjamin highlighted some OpenRTB protocols that IAB Canada was testing with IAB Tech Lab. We continue to explore signal-based approaches to allow for rapid compliance to certain regulatory guidelines. Our recent work on the M2K file was referenced as a model that could be applied to other scenarios and would certainly deliver Canadian leadership to global IABs who are facing similar regulatory challenges.

IAB Canada is looking forward to taking this conversation across the country and delivering a varied agenda that touches on all of these topics to both inform our industry and drive a spirit of innovative community among Canadian online advertising professionals.