Quantcast specializes in AI-driven real-time advertising, audience insights and measurement and is currently focusing on remaining agile when planning for cookie deprecation and privacy regulatory reforms. It is also focusing on how the industry can find and keep talent.

This article is part of the February 2022 WARC Spotlight Canada series, "Themes that will influence marketing.” Read more

The past two years have taught Canadians many lessons, and when it comes to business, one thing is crystal clear: those who adapt to market realities and embrace a digital-first world are much more likely to thrive than those who don’t. This is taking many forms, as those in the advertising industry adapt to the coming cookieless world, to changes in Canadian consumer behavior, and to changes in how and where people work. Here is how Quantcast sees these issues taking shape as 2022 unfolds.

Preparing for life without third-party cookies

Many people in the advertising industry breathed a healthy sigh of relief when Google announced plans to delay the demise of third-party cookies on its Chrome browser until the end of this year. And, sure, that extra time is helpful – it gives everyone a chance to properly prepare for what’s to come. But, while it might represent somewhat of a short-term reprieve, brands, agencies, and publishers still need to keep their eye on the ball and remain focused on finding sustainable, long-term alternatives.

More and more Canadians have privacy protection top of mind, with a vast majority (84%) of Canadian adults concerned about their personal data being shared with third parties without their consent, according to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. In 2022, we’ll likely see privacy-focused regulatory reform in Canada, but the browsers have already acted and we’re well beyond taking a “wait and see” approach.

Even if Chrome’s deprecation of third-party cookies is still to come, Safari and Firefox have both stopped supporting them, and Apple’s switch last year of its IDFA to opt-in – and Android’s coming changes along the same lines – signal the extent to which audience reach is already changing. Advertisers who haven’t found other solutions are missing out on access to new audiences, more inventory and more scaled advertising results.

Whether now or in 2023, we’re all going to have to adapt to a world without cookies and some other tried-and-true identifiers. And the key to success is getting ahead of the curve. We think the most comprehensive approach will come from a wide variety of “signals” from consumers – real-time data inputs from across the internet, including first-party data (with consumer consent), contextual approaches, cohorts, and identifiers. It’s going to take all those and more to create a sophisticated, holistic view of activity on the open internet.

Then, once we’ve collected those signals, it’s about layering on AI and machine learning tools to statistically combine all those points of data into a single, coherent story.

Quantcast is moving into this via Ara, our AI and machine learning engine. It can decipher complex, multiple signal sets to understand behavioral patterns, and organize the open internet into a TopicMap – a multi-dimensional analysis of content by topics and interests. In addition to AI, deploying a consent management platform (a system for allowing customers to determine what personal data they are willing to share with a business) with products such as Quantcast Choice, Osano, or OneTrust allows for the use of privacy compliant first-party data.

The future of ad measurement

Since the beginning of the pandemic, consumption by Canadian consumers has accelerated in areas like e-commerce, digital media, connected TV and audio, and streaming. According to eMarketer, retail ecommerce in Canada gained a greater share of total retail in 2020. Despite the economic challenges and flat retail sales overall, ecommerce grew 20.7% during the first year of COVID, reaching CA$52.04 billion.

As consumer behavior has changed, advertisers are recognizing the importance of measurement that moves at the speed of audiences. This includes gaining real-time insight and research into audience makeup and learning how audiences engage with content.

Further, it’s important for marketers to see measurement through an omnichannel approach and leverage unique insights about how and where consumers are spending their time online to fuel more relevant messaging, ad campaigns and content. No consumer spends all of their time on one channel, and it’s imperative that advertisers think about diversifying ad spend to align with their target audience’s habits. The ability to measure your campaigns in real-time, see your entire customer journey and optimize for success can give you a true omnichannel approach to planning, activation and measurement.

Covid recovery + finding and keeping talent

While many have been counting on a post-Covid return to normal, Ontario continues to be one of the hardest hit locations in North America with over 300 days of lockdowns, which have led to isolation, lost morale, and burnout in the advertising industry.

The great resignation has made headlines in the US and has begun to make its way to Canada. Many organizations in the media and advertising industries are seeing turnover, low morale and overworked employees, all of which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. So how can an industry in flux begin to think about Covid recovery in 2022?

When it comes to post-pandemic planning, it will be most important for organizations to remain flexible and fluid. As we’ve seen with delta and omicron, new strains of coronavirus will cause plans to change and companies in Canada will need to shift focus to empowering our workforce to thrive in a virtual environment, rather than rely on a return-to-work schedule.

The advertising industry in Canada is also facing a talent shortage. Organizations looking to fill their talent pipeline must strive to develop and promote a healthy work environment to nurture and appeal to a healthy talent pool. We know that talent is looking for flexibility, work-life balance, a more personalized approach from management, and embracing new models like hybrid work can help.

But how do you keep the talent you already have? A few key themes have emerged to help organizations nurture the employees they have today.

Becoming a more flexible employer, that attracts the best talent, will help any company in the marketing ecosystem to wrestle with the technological and consumer challenges they will no doubt face in 2022. The most successful organizations will meet the moment and act quickly to evolve. Those who embrace change and continue to test and learn will reap unique benefits and competitive advantages, better preparing them for the future.