IAB, CMA on brink of fundamental change

With some 30 years' experience in media advertising, sponsorship marketing, direct marketing and public affairs, Peter Case recently established his own communications and marketing consultancy in Toronto....

With some 30 years’ experience in media advertising, sponsorship marketing, direct marketing and public affairs, Peter Case recently established his own communications and marketing consultancy in Toronto.

The fledgling Internet Advertising Bureau is reported to be taking aggressive steps to move from a volunteer group to more of a full-time, professional organization. Welcome news at a time when clarity and measurement tools are so badly needed.

With its first executive director in place, the IAB is embarking on a drive for additional membership – an effort to add to its already 100-plus tripartite base.

The IAB began to take shape roughly three years ago, and since then has steadily gained influence and critical mass. As a national advocate for Internet marketing and advertising, the bureau has set out to build an objective resource for stimulating new media advertising models and for sponsoring education forums. It also boasts a modest but useful public policy role.

At the same time, The Canadian Marketing Association (CMA), formerly the Canadian Direct Marketing Association and one of the country’s major, potential "influencers" in interactive marketing, is also gearing up.

Its size, its focus on public policy issues and education, and its membership roster provide a natural reason to take a leadership position with respect to interactivity to ensure that marketers are better able to understand and deal with the implications of rapid-fire changes.

To do so, however, could mean yet another shift in the mandate of the CMA. Two years ago, after many debates, it rewrote its mission statement to broaden the association’s scope beyond direct response, shifting to the wider embrace of "information-based" marketing.

Understandably, in the short time since, the CMA has retained a somewhat heavy membership skew toward direct marketers, many of whom continue to be governed by an inordinate focus on one-way relationship marketing principles. But that’s changing.

With customers more empowered than ever, interactivity has become a key marketing driver. Presumably, real "relationships" will flow from an improved or open two-way flow of communication.

Clearly, the CMA is logically positioned to lead Canadian businesses in their quest to adapt to interactive marketing. It may actually be the sole organized group to which Canadian marketers currently can turn.

The association has established an "Internet marketing council," one of several that deal with specific areas of concern, and, it has a task force and an advisory group poised to move forward. These are a beginning.

Nonetheless, while the CMA may have a solid arsenal of resources and support to get the job done, nothing short of a big, bold, , association-wide step into the interactive fray will keep it in the forefront.

Marketers entering this new era need a strong, fully credible, solidly visionary and aggressively influential voice to act in their interest.

Just as it refashioned itself as a leader in information-based marketing, there’s a compelling argument that the CMA should now build quickly on its strengths and mobilize to become Canada’s hub for the evolution of interactive marketing.

* * * * *

On another topic entirely, Canada has benefited significantly from many years of hard work by a relatively small but dedicated band of media managers. Together and individually, they’ve brought wisdom, growth, influence and professionalism to media planning and buying. They have forged a solid operating template for the many people who work today in the media.

You’ll recognize their names: Ann Boden, Sunni Boot, Bruce Claassen, Hugh Dow, David Harrison, Peter Swain. Each has run or is heading a media agency-of-record and they all participate extensively in industry forums, proffer sought-after advice and counsel, provide opportunities for newcomers to learn and thrive and, generally, command the respect of buyers and sellers alike.

These key players are central to the growth and success of media planning and buying in Canada; they’ve become something of a core, if not inspirational, group – leading, pushing and cajoling. Some might even say beating.

And just when they got things pretty well right, the road has taken a sharp turn toward media convergence.

While their sophisticated understanding of media dynamics will no doubt combine to make them a solid bet in the tumultuous years ahead, it’s fair to say the savvy six have an additional job: to begin positioning and promoting the next wave of leaders who will follow. And one of the things they’ll have to teach these up-and-comers is the importance of relationships.

For some strange reason, there’s been a lot of discussion lately about whether relationships between buyers and sellers are important in the advertising business. Implicit in these discussions is the suggestion that media inventory is nothing more than a commodity where relationships count for little and price counts for a lot.

I, for one, can’t understand a view that believes in media for media’s sake, a philosophy that doesn’t take into account the opportunity for powerful alignments and creative solutions.

Boden, Boot, Claassen, Dow, Harrison, Swain – they’ve built an entire industry around relationships. It’s unlikely they could have done so otherwise.

In my own case, I can say unequivocally that some of the best and most productive media initiatives developed while I was at Royal Bank were borne out of relationships with all levels of media.

It occurs to me that anyone who argues against the value of relationships has spent little time developing and benefiting from them.

Their loss.

Peter Case can be reached at (905) 762-0182.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group