IAB Canada’s National Townhall Event Uninterrupted

Part 1 of 3: A recap of the State of the Nation event submitted by IAB Canada contributor: Polina Moliboga-Fuchs

Contrary to past country-wide, in-person ‘State of the Nation’ events, that are typically conducted across five major cities in Canada, this year, IAB Canada adapted to the ‘new norm’ by compressing the 2020 event into one virtual townhall. Privacy, regulations, consumer-first mindset, and working together as a collaborative industry were star topics at yesterday’s event, as well as the need for advertisers to re-calibrate messaging for today’s realities. It was clear that these areas require industry experts’ unreversed and unbiased attention. IAB Canada invited their colleagues from IAB Europe and IAB US as well as privacy specialists, and the featured Gold Sponsor, Quantcast out of Dublin, Ireland, to unpack the international state of privacy from on-the-ground perspectives.

Sonia Carreno, President at IAB Canada kicked off the afternoon by addressing three key updates in Digital Media and their impact on our day-to-day norms:

  1. 2020 impact assessment – COVID-19 and other news
  2. Supporting Canadian Publishers
  3. Canada on the Global Standard setting stage

2020 Impact Assessment – COVID-19 and other News

Four waves of IAB Canada research that align with global IAB study findings, were aggregated to deliver the following highlights:

  • 80% of Campaigns in Canada were negatively impacted
  • 71% of budgets were delayed, paused or reduced (mostly to cash flow and consumption behaviors that have been reflected in the lockdown)
  • 76% of brands modified their creatives to get back into the working place post the initial pause of the lockdown
  • Estimated overall spend reduction of 20% occurred during Mar/Apr/May
    • 25% Display – accounts for 28% of all Digital Ad Spend*
    • 10% Video – accounts for 24% of all Digital Ad Spend
    • 8% search – accounts for 24% of all Digital Ad Spend

*Estimated from the 2019 IAB Canada Revenue Survey

IAB Canada had a lot of requests on what they think the adjusted 2020 survey is going to look like and what kind of reductions they are expecting. Based on the current projections for market, the estimated impact is currently sitting at around a 7% from projected revenue for the year. Sonia clearly stated that this number is a moving target as there remain several unknowns for the last two quarters of the year.

  • CPMs and CPCs were down as it has become a buyer’s market.
  • There was no surprise on the majority of affected categories – Travel, Automotive, Fashion, Real Estate and Retail.
  • eCommerce enabled brands were less impacted. As we have been talking about direct-to-consumer brands over the past couple of years, the IAB US has done a great job on providing the top 200 brands and also publishing playbooks on marketing direct to consumer.

Sonia zeroed in on the fact that IAB Canada’s probe into the impact of Covid-19 had revealed that over 50% of advertisers are blocking ‘Hard News’ defined as very sensitive, serious, political, foreign affairs, and human disasters; anything that is not really routine and/or lifestyle content. As mentioned in several articles published by IAB Canada in the past, the news category has seen a dramatic increase in consumption levels (almost 50% more minutes spent according to Comscore) over the past couple months. It is not only the highest consumed area of content, but also one that is critical to Canadians at this moment. Sonia underscored that the impact of an estimated 50% of the market blockage of the news, would be devastating to Canadian content production and journalism.

Sonia then explained that the initial block to news content may have been a result of brands re-calibrating their content for appropriateness.  This was demonstrated by the many pivot’s brands have been forced to make during these past months as she pointed towards a variety of news headlines from Covid-19 to Black Lives Matter to the upcoming 2020 Presidential election.

We tend to think of news as something that is coming from traditional news outlets, but the reality is that news is everywhere. It is in your personal social feeds, across every single property – it is all everybody is talking about with citizens are creating user-generated content around news. It is really a 360 experience for everyone right now and as a result, we are seeing brands look to the news for communication strategies at a significantly accelerated pace. From a digital media stand-point, we are going to see a lot more production, possible shorter campaign periods (allowing for more flexibility), and consequently shorter commitments to enable the agility required for rapid transitions in messaging.

Supporting Canadian Publishers

Next up, Sonia went on to highlight how local media is being significantly impacted by sweeping block strategies.

Sonia explained that the IAB Canada team has been working to complete a detailed local news domain list, which happened to align nicely with an initiative that came out of Quebec, Nos Medias Locaux, or Our Local Media. This initiative not only covers local news properties but is also inclusive of all  broad Canadian content. Last week, IAB Canada announced its support of the initiative and that the Nos Medias Locaux/Our Local Media database will reside within IAB Canada. IAB Canada will work to merge the initiatives and deliver a defined, current, and labeled, data base for Canadian innovation. This will be an open data base for DSPs and SSPs can leverage it to fully support Canadian content. If you are a publisher, and haven’t already added your content here, reach out to IAB Canada.

Canada on the Global Standard Setting Stage

Lastly Sonia gave a Digital Media update. There has been an evolution on what we mean by standards in digital advertising. When IAB launched in 1997 it was all about the ad units, efficiencies, and driving standards on the creative unit side. In 2007-2017 when we started to see more innovation and steep incline in expenditures and the proliferation of open marketplaces and RTB, the association had to solve for things like viewability, fraud, and brand safety. Today, standards have evolved to encompass policy based on international and local regulations. The standards required today are addressing some of the fundamental underpinnings of the way online advertising works. The industry is facing a tectonic shift and we must all lean in to shape its new realities.

Based on the examples presented, IAB Canada is certainly developing tools that lead the industry on an international level. Programs over the past two years alone have innovated against election advertising integrity, age gating and a comprehensive analysis on the implications of a cookie-less ecosystem for all stakeholders.  There was a lot to be proud of, but Sonia cautioned that there is a tremendous amount of work yet to be done.

Sonia touched on IAB Canada’s commitment to address inappropriate and pervasive terminology used within the digital advertising industry. Examples of words the association will be promoting in all future documentation included citizens, core lists, blocking, inclusion lists, exclusion lists among many others. She called upon the industry to make a concerted effort to do the same so that we could move forward with words that more accurately describe what we’re referring to rather than assigning labels that can be viewed as derogatory or insensitive.

In keeping with a general theme around leaning in, creating change and thinking positively, this portion of the presentation was book-ended by a lighthearted networking break where peers were able to catch up and discuss some of the positive experiences that have come out of the past few months. The idea was to take the best aspects of lockdown and carry them into the working life that will undoubtedly be altered to work life v2.0.

Part #2 of the State of the Nation 2020 sessions will be published next week.