Re-imagining Digital Media at Business of Digital: Road Map to a Trusted Supply Chain

Written by: Polina Moliboga-Fuchs

Transparency, brand safety, trust and measurement were some of the key topics unpacked at IAB Canada’s first event of the year entitled ‘Business of Digital: Road Map to a Trusted Supply Chain – Re-imagining Digital Media.’ The event also took on the elephant in the room, the diminishing cookie.

The afternoon was kicked off by Sonia Carreno, President at IAB Canada. Sonia took the audience through the findings of the IAB Canada – Brand Safety Barometer Report which indicated a clear shift in the industry’s priorities since 2019. Data integrity was top of the list of concerns our digital advertising community faces today. Legal compliance also hit the radar and with the imminent changes to global privacy laws, we anticipate a rise in concern as regulations become crystallized.

The study held several other insights around responsibilities and a fairly positive prognosis for the coming years. Steve Rosenblum, Director of Research at IAB Canada summarizes the report here.

Celeste Normington, Head of Data and Technology Platforms at Pelmorex Corp, spoke about data quality in the new world of privacy. Celeste had the crowd both laughing and crying at the same time as she walked everyone through some very important questions that everyone should be asking their vendors in the name of transparency.

Celeste spoke of marketers that are not looking for just ANY insights, they are looking for ACTIONABLE insights. One of the most useful data sets in this context is Geo-Location – helping marketers understand where customers go and what they do. Celeste stressed the importance of creating consumer-friendly consent messaging as we now confront global policy changes like GDPR and CCPA. While Canada changes its legislation it’s important to get ahead of it by being up front, honest, and transparent with consumers.

Celeste then moved on to talk about the browser policies and their implications on the industry. Celeste shared staggering numbers around losses suffered due to Safari changes and urged the audience to shore up against the coming changes to Chrome in 2022. On a practical level, here were some of the questions she suggested that marketers should be asking their providers – How is your data derived? Do you have consent for collection and activation? How persistent are your identifiers? In which browsers? Why?

Next, a financial panel discussed safety in a risk averse sector with our venerated panelists: Stephen Kim, Sr. Director of Audience, Personalization, and Optimization, Digital at CIBC, Sai Poguluru, Vice President, IT Shared Services at goeasy Ltd., John Selvakumar, Senior Manager, Digital Marketing Strategy & Platforms at TD Bank, and Gah-Yee Won, Global Brand & Media Management at Scotiabank.

Highlights of the panel:

  • Canadian banks sell trust and because Canadians put their trust and livelihoods into these institutions, the brands must ensure their advertising appears in brand safe environments. Otherwise, they risk having a negative impact on their consumers.
  • When advertising appears in a non-safe brand environment, the financial institutions are held accountable. Since financial institutions are regulated, their staff must go through training on an annual basis to be able to recognize fraudulent activity, brand safety, etc.
  • There have been improvements since the implementation of blacklisting and whitelisting. Some institutions created committees (comprised of brands and their partners along with third-party vendors) that meet regularly to enhance protocols and procedures.
  • Financial institutions had adapted to the ever-changing digital landscape and have invested in bringing in-house knowledge, but still rely on agency partners for consultancy. Many have taken the programmatic work in-house. There doesn’t appear to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach here – the agency partnerships are very valuable and are looked upon as guiding experts.
  • As for 2022 once the third-party cookie is officially deceased – everyone is preparing for it, and the finance category is no different. The brands are looking into it and working with IAB Canada and other partners to better understand how to mitigate future risks.


Jason Cox, Vice President, Client Services at Blue Carbon Consulting gave an interesting perspective on the evolving nature of mobile fraud and some breathtaking stats like the fact that advertisers lost $5 billion globally to mobile fraud in 2019. Some additional eye-opening stats followed:

  • In 2019 global app install fraud was 22.6%
  • In Q2-2019 global mobile in-app ad fraud rate was 25%
  • In Q2-2019 global fraudulent mobile ad traffic was 11.6%
  • In 2019 Canadian fraudulent devices account for ~400 million, in a country with a population of 37 million people!
  • 5-7 million fraudulent active devices are detected on a weekly basis in Canada

Mobile fraud comes in different forms and shapes; app spoofing, bot traffic, click spam, and device ID fraud, which was the focus during his session. Jason showcased three examples used to combat fraudsters by monitoring abnormal behaviours, such as:

  • When a device is observed at one location and minutes later shows up at a different location without physical ability to get there.
  • Number of devices appear to be in a middle of a forest or a lake.
  • Fraudsters continuously change their device id’s.

As our technology evolves, so do fraudsters. He referred to this as a “game of cat and mouse”; the speed in which fraudsters evolve also evolves. And, some of the steps that advertisers can take to protect themselves are:

  1. Use of proven platforms.
  2. Having a 3rd party audit ad performance. Investigate when cost per 1000 is too good to be true.
  3. Manually monitor your ad data.
  4. Pay for action, not for traffic.
  5. Demand transparency.
  6. Combine the right tools with the right human talent.
  7. Understand early warning signs from your data.
  8. Establish a pre-bid suppression strategy.
  9. Use a ‘white list’ of clean devices.


Jon Morra, Chief Data Scientist at Zefr, gave an impressive talk around brand suitability and how AI can power a strategy to deliver scale and safety.

Jon shared examples of how pharma, alcohol and CPG brands can utilize machine learning to help their advertising appear in a brand suitable environment. He suggested that Google and Facebook have not solved for this because these platforms have three constituencies to appease to stay alive – the creators, the viewers and the brands. Meanwhile, Zefr and other third party solutions-providers are better positioned to serve only one of these constituencies – the brands.

Jon shared the riveting methodology around how machine learning algorithms are created, from developing, and identifying brand preferences and eliminating undesirable content at scale. There was lively discussion following this timely presentation.

The day closed with a panel discussion about the cookie-less future. Sonia started off this topic by outlining the reality that digital advertising will have to be re-architected. Consumer demand, international policy, technical opportunism in the form of OS’s and browsers, and people are starting to use privacy as a differentiating factor where first party data serves as a competitive advantage.

Sonia outlined some of the mechanisms at stake for the industry including the disruption of measurement, reach frequency capping, impression click counting, audience targeting, attribution, and privacy among others. Online inventory is going to be anonymous and non-addressable by default.

The roadmap for IAB Canada includes the creation of IAB Tech Lab of the North that would enable Canadian IAB Canada members to have a seat at the global table. Sonia’s message was summarized in a quote from Abraham Lincoln – “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.

The final panel included Brandon Kirk, Vice President Client Solutions at Rogers Media, Nancy McConnell, Director, Agency Team, Canada at Google, Chris Ovsenny, Director, Media Demand Generation at Points, and Amy Gardner, Sr. Director, Digital Media at Loblaw Media. Nancy McConnell set the stage by clarifying that even though Google made an announcement to remove 3rd party cookie from its Chrome browser, they haven’t done it yet and the industry has time to work together over the next couple of years.

Highlights of the panel:

  • Reward programs and other loyalty-based activity should be on the rise
  • Creating a value exchange and provide something in return to their customers for use of their data
  • Participate in problem-solving and join the industry discussions taking pace (IAB Tech Lab etc.)
  • Consumers want transparency from brands, understanding of how their data is used, and simplicity around regulations overall.
  • Access to first party data will be at a competitive advantage.

Look out for the IAB Canada cross-council white paper on the cookieless world!

Thank you to all our speakers, moderators, sponsors, attendees and volunteers – the event would not have been such a success without all of your support. We look forward to furthering the conversation with our Councils, members and at upcoming events.