What is on the minds of Canada’s marketers?

We asked respondents for predictions about agency relationships, tech, diversity and more in our annual Marketer Survey.


This story originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of strategy.

Each year – as the summer closes in and planning for the next year begins – Strategy likes to take a pause and the pulse of the marketing landscape. We sift through insights and data pouring in from our annual Marketer Survey, which was taken by about 250 marketers in late 2018. And each time, we watch for brands bucking trends and any bumps in the road. In this case, our research has shown that 2019 will be a year when marketers put more eggs in their media baskets, grow an appetite for new tech tools, and drive diversity in the workplace. Read on to find out what else is predicted to unfold.

Variety is the spice of marketing

Last year, marketers reported wanting to focus more time and money on two main advertising vehicles: digital and social media. Budget was still being allocated toward platforms like TV and OOH, but it was almost business as usual, with fewer than 5% of marketers (on average) looking to ramp up investment in platforms beyond digital (37%) and social (19%). But now, in 2019, marketers plan to mix things up. There were more respondents (above 10%) looking to put more emphasis on areas like influencer marketing (20% this year vs. 5% last year); branded content (19% vs 5%); experiential (16% vs. 1%); search marketing (15% vs. 2%) and PR (13% vs. 4%). When asked what areas marketers plan to focus less on, 39% (vs. 25% in 2018) say print, while 33% (vs. 17%) said TV. Respondents say they will also place less focus on radio (24% vs. 9%), sponsorships (22% vs. 7%) and OOH (19% vs. 8%) in 2019.

The social landscape

Plagued with privacy issues and data scandals, 2018 was a rocky year for Facebook. Yet the social media behemoth continues to see investment from brands: 91% of respondents say they’re currently active on FB (no change between years). That said, 25% report wanting to invest less of their time and money on the platform, while 14% say they plan to do the opposite and invest more. Instagram is quickly catching up as the second most-popular social platform for brands: 82% say they’re active here, up 10% from 72% in the previous year’s survey. And that interest is only going to strengthen. A whopping 43% of marketers say they plan to spend more on IG. YouTube will see 15% more marketers looking to invest in its platform, while 8% plan to do the same on LinkedIn. As for notable decreases, 23% and 16% say they will invest less in Twitter and Snapchat, respectively.

Tech adoption is the way forward

While 45% of marketers last year said they did not plan to invest in the top tech listed in our survey – such as blockchain, AR, VR and chatbots – this year, that number shrunk to a third (33%), indicating more investment in these new marketing tools. Interest in virtual reality took a bit of a dive, with only 8% looking to invest in the tech in 2019, compared to 18% in 2018. New to the survey: programmatic advertising has the attention of about a fourth of marketers, with 26% saying they plan to invest more in the ad buying space in 2019. Wearables (5%), AR (4%), and blockchain (2%) remain low on the investment totem pole.


Research, research, research. Better R&D and product innovation has become more of a priority for marketers this year as they look to reach consumers and build their brands: 15% are making this a top focus in 2019, versus 8% in 2018. Some of the main priorities for marketers include facilitating strategic partnerships to expand reach (25% in 2019 vs. 28% in 2018); developing a better social strategy (16% vs. 21%); and better media innovation/earned media (11% vs. 17%). While those three things remain high on the list, some of that focus is being shifted slightly towards other areas like CSR programs (4% this year vs. 1% last year) and experiential marketing (7% vs. 3%).


Many hands make light work

Marketers continue to look to agency partners to build their brands through advertising. While they primarily work with creative shops to craft campaigns – with the majority (58%) saying they have an “excellent” to “very good” relationship with those partners – 72% believe that their media partner’s strategic input is just as important as their principal creative agency. This is on par with the previous year’s survey; however, more marketers this year than last say that their input is more important (9% in 2019 versus 4% in 2018). A sizeable chunk of respondents (15% in 2019 vs. 17% in 2018) also see the support of their digital agency being increasingly important for the development of their brands; followed by PR firms (9% vs. 13%); research companies (9% vs. 8%); social media shops (6% vs. 10%); and data co.’s (6% vs 2%). As for who’s creating branded content – more marketers this year than last say they’re using production houses (9% vs. 2%); branded content companies (9% vs. 5%); and media agencies (4% vs. 1%)

The diversity divide

The struggle for gender and racial equality continues as the majority of brands still don’t have diversity and inclusion policies in place. Only a third (32%) of marketers report that their company tracks and measures the number of women and/or visible minorities it employs. Another third (35%) say that it has implemented programs that address the racial and gender divide. While 22% say their company is looking at ways to improve diversity, 20% of the respondents say that their company has not invested in inclusion programs, like bias training, at all. Just a little more than half (52%) of respondents say that over 50% of their marketing team is made up of women. Almost a third (30%) say that more than 75% are female. About 9% say women make up under 50% of the team, while 5% say there is less than 25%. The remaining 3% of marketers weren’t sure of the female to male composition.