Engage 2015 Recap
Interested in what’s happening in Canada’s digital media landscape? Engage 2015, an event presented by IAB Canada and nextMEDIA in Toronto, definitely gave the industry a good update. It brought together visionaries, pioneers, savants and practitioners, all vying to shape the digital events of 2015.
Joe Stolz, the General Manager of AOL Canada and Chairman of IAB Canada, started off the conference by showing us how far we have come from the digital advertising landscape of 1998, the founding year of the IAB. We all remember the “Rachel” haircut, and little or no standards in online advertising. He reminded us that automation in digital advertising (in 2015) is still in its infancy.
The prominent theme of Engage 2015 was mobile. Mobile was on everyone’s tongue; I can’t recall seeing a presentation that dismissed its importance. In the opening panel, Matt Lawson from Google challenged the antiquated notion of seated online browsing sessions. He emphasized that the average mobile user checks their phone over 150 times/day, giving rise to the digital consumer’s increasingly fragmented path to purchase. Panelists emphasized how critical it is to identify and deliver on the needs of the moment. For the second year in a row, Jeff Lancaster, CEO of Catalyst Canada, provided some meaningful data about the Canadian mobile consumer in 2015. Highlights included:
We have reached 68% smartphone penetration in Canada
The number of mobile applications people have on their phone is declining in all demographics except for millennials
Home usage is at par or higher than “on the go.”
Some of this data surprised me – specifically the decline in mobile apps found on devices.
The concept of a holistic programmatic platform was another idea that got serious attention, and again, approaches varied. AOL gave us a view into their own telescope by illustrating the idea of an open, flexible platform and working with multiple data touch points, partners and even competitors in the programmatic ecosystem. Elsewhere, Jenn Chen of Sizmek walked us through a programmatic playbook, essentially an overview of the common questions on topics advertisers have regarding programmatic, such as optimization, using data, and attribution. In the end, Chen’s winning play was to connect to a common platform that offered a unified approach to data and technology which enabled the correct understanding of optimization and attribution. If all of this sounds familiar, it should. From where I stand, many players in the digital ecosystem have begun to champion their own unified programmatic model.
Last but not least, native advertising emerged as an industry talking point. Susan Krashinsky of the Globe and Mail moderated a panel entitled “Native Advertising from a Global Perspective” that saw representation from both The Guardian and Forbes Media. The discussion centered around authenticity, transparency and the importance of mobile – all pivotal issues to continue early successes seen by many publishers in the space. Keith Hernandez of Buzzfeed, the final presenter, outlined the meteoric success it has had since its inception in 2006. This presentation opened up the Buzzfeed hood and showcased examples of viral embedded content such as that Whiskas “Dear Kitten” video you’ve probably seen more than once.
Engage2015 laid the groundwork for what is shaping up to be a formidable year for the digital media landscape in Canada and globally. Clearly, the players involved pushed different priorities (both on a macro and micro level) in our frenetic, constantly shifting industry. What resonated the most with me was that the burgeoning Lumascape will see further consolidation in the year to come, consumer behaviour is ahead of the advertiser for the first time in many years and that we are in a time of incredible transformation. Mark McLusky of wired.com summed it up best: “Today’s innovations are tomorrow’s baseline.” Whose vision will be closest to reality? That’s really for all of us to decide.