Canadian Media: A Buyer’s Guide

Working at a Montreal-based agency, I’ve learned a thing or two about targeting Canadians online. It’s a task most buyers have undertaken at one time or another, as this global village of ours continues to develop and we cross virtual borders to reach international markets.

For the majority of American advertisers, Canadian Internet users are a most appealing consumer group. The country boasts one of the highest Internet penetration rates in the world, and its occupants have become quite comfortable incorporating the Internet into their daily lives. Back in 2001, surveys indicated Canadians were more likely than Americans to bank online, download music, and have high-speed access. According to more recent reports, 88 percent of online Canadians use email several times per week, while 62 percent access email daily. Almost a quarter of the Canadian population is now banking online — 61 percent logging on weekly — and online stock trading by Canadians who have a trading account with a discount broker has increased to 63 percent, from 47 percent in 2000.

Canadians are also spending more of their “loonies” online. Studies report the overall number of Canadians shopping online is steadily rising. During the 2001 holiday shopping season, online spending increased by 78 percent. For U.S.-based companies and e-commerce sites with the ability to service Canadian Internet users, targeting them through online advertising just makes good sense. The current strength of the U.S. dollar up north makes buying Canadian even more attractive.

What requires a little more thought is just how to find them. Geotargeting is probably the most obvious solution and can deliver a significant number of potential customers if you’re advertising on universally popular, traffic-heavy U.S. portals and search engines. If you need more precision than just “Canadians,” you might run into some trouble. Not all portals can target by Canadian city or even by province. Adding further demographic specifications to your profile isn’t always doable. For sites that use a less-capable ad-serving system, targeting a foreign market is never going to be as easy as reaching a consumer down the block. If this is the line you encounter when planning media buys, consider this suggestion: Buy Canadian.

If you are catering to a Canadian audience, why take the long and winding road? Go straight to the source. You’d be amazed at how often this self-evident tenet is ignored. There’s a wealth of Canadian sites and portals out there just waiting to be tapped. It’s possible a hesitancy to venture into this territory stems from an uncertainly of just where to start. For all of those wary buyers our there, here’s a brief overview of the market.

In Canada, a handful of dominant networks own and operate the majority of the big-name, home-bred sites. Most online newspapers, for example, are part of the Canada.com network, owned by CanWest Global Communications Corp. TELUS and Bell Globemedia Interactive own many of the city- and province-specific sites. As in the U.S., many consumer magazine sites are developed by publishing/media companies’ interactive divisions and are maintained as part of an overall online information network. Streamlining your media buys while ensuring absolute market coverage is simply a matter of choosing the appropriate network source. If your campaign necessitates reaching Canadian women, for example, a good starting point is MochaSofa. Here, Transcontinental Media assembles the online versions of Canadian Living, Elle Canada, HM Homemaker’s, and Style at Home, along with original articles and additional information pertinent to this audience.

This type of network site structure makes media buying a breeze and diminishes the size of a buyer’s Rolodex. Sites within these networks can accept all standard ad formats, often including vokens, and can generally target by geography (e.g., province/state, area code, postal code), time of day, and affinity group (e.g., business, entertainment, sports). Criteria such as age, household income, and gender can be met through section or channel targeting. Recent statistics on demographic distribution are always easy to obtain. Some sites can even target by SIC code for buyers planning business-to-business (B2B) campaigns.

A surplus of opportunities out there await buyers with a mandate to reach Canadians online, and with the right contacts in the industry incorporating Canadian sites into a campaign can be a very straightforward process. At the rate Canadians are embracing the Internet, it won’t be long before finding a buyer who isn’t “planning Canadian” is the real challenge.

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