Blaire is a Media Planner/Buyer at Vovia with a background in both traditional and digital media. When she's not crafting a media strategy, budgeting, or looking at the latest media research, she enjoys hiking, reading, gardening, watching basketball and going to see movies.

Other posts by:

What is the IAB and What Role Do They Play in Digital Marketing in Canada?

In the digital advertising world, IAB is an acronym that gets used a lot. IAB Canada is a champion for the digital advertising industry and is an important resource for media agencies and marketing teams alike. But what does IAB stand for and what exactly do they do?

Image of person working on tablet and desktop

Overview of the IAB Canada

IAB stands for “Interactive Advertising Bureau” and was established in 1997 to be the national representation of the interactive marketing and advertising industry. It is a non-profit association and represents over 250 of Canada’s advertisers, ad agencies, media companies, service providers, educational institutions and government associations. They are dedicated to the development and promotion of digital marketing in Canada.

What IAB Does

IAB Canada is often associated with the research that they perform, but beyond that, they also establish digital/interactive advertising standards and best practices, conduct educational courses, provide certification, act as an advocate for the digital industry, and organize networking events for the community. They also provide useful standardization of specs and sizing guidelines which media and creative agencies can leverage to streamline their asset creation. Below we’ll dive into each of these areas a bit further.


The IAB conducts a variety of research studies that help media planners learn more about the current digital landscape, which then helps us to develop strategic and statistically sound plans for our clients. One well-known study that IAB helps to conduct every year is the ‘Canadian Media Usage Trends’ (CMUST).

CMUST looks at every major media channel in terms of consumer behaviour and consumption. This includes consumption across devices and screens and the continuously changing digital trends. Since 2004, the CMUST study has been tracking the increasing reach and time spent with the Internet and its main content groups, which include news, entertainment, banking and other topics and interests.
Here are some examples of the type of research in the report from the latest study and a couple key takeaways:

The Devices Canadians Use to Access the Internet

We can see from the below chart that all devices have had gradual increases over the years. The only exception is desktop/laptop, which has experienced a slight decrease.

IAB Research Graph

What this means for marketers – Media habits and consumption are evolving and this should be taken into account when selecting your media for the next campaign. Don’t just pay attention to the top channels, keep an eye on the growth of the ones at the lower end to keep tabs on future opportunities as well.

Time Spent Across Media Channels

There’s a lot going on in the below graph, but this is an example of the depth of research we can get from the CMUST study. In this table, we can see that Internet, TV, and Radio are the channels that are the highest in terms of time spent per week, while magazine and newspaper are on the low end of the spectrum.

IAB Research Graph

What this means for marketers – While every medium still has a place in certain situations, this time spent analysis helps us determine the strength of each option and the likelihood we will reach our target audience.

As a media agency, we rely on in-depth and comprehensive research to help us provide strategic recommendations to our clients. IAB Canada’s thorough and unbiased research is critical in the planning stage and helps us to make better decisions.


Want to up your skills in a certain area of digital marketing? In addition to its research, IAB Canada provides numerous courses, such as data fundamentals, programmatic trading, social media marketing, paid search and more to support and develop the next wave of marketers. Along with individual courses and workshops, IAB also provides three certifications: digital media buying and planning, digital media sales, and digital ad operations.

The education that IAB provides helps us keep up to date with what is happening in the industry and keeps us current and cutting edge at our jobs. Through continuous education, we become more skilled advertisers to offer better service to our clients, on top of the latest advancements in technology, platforms, and strategies.

IAB Specs & Standardization

There are many display platforms available to advertisers, and many different specification documents for each. This can be cumbersome for media and creative agencies to work with. The IAB is well known for creating ad standards that streamlines the process for creative agencies and publishers, which also increases the overall quality of display advertising in Canada. You can learn more about IAB Canada specs and best practices here.

The IAB is continually updating their standards and regulations, so it’s important to keep up to date with these changes. We routinely check for updates in IAB’s specs so we’re using the most current standards and can convey this to clients and creative teams.


A lesser-known element about IAB Canada is the advocacy that they do in the industry. They are working on a number of initiatives to improve the landscape of digital advertising in Canada.
One example is their work with the Canadian Advertising Coalition to support banning food and beverage advertising to children. IAB Canada has communicated the complexities of online advertising to Health Canada officials because, with programmatic advertising, it is difficult to identify with certainty whether a child is served an impression or not. Health Canada is receptive to IAB Canada’s concerns and they are working together to find a solution that will work to prevent food and beverage advertising to children.

With IAB Canada continuing to advocate for progress and change, it helps agencies know that they are working on making things better in the industry. They stay on top of changes to government regulations and legislation that will affect our industry and work with government groups to communicate the position of digital advertising agencies across the country. It’s invaluable to have this advocacy at such a high level.

Learn More About IAB!

The IAB Canada website has a wealth of information, so make sure to check it out! Have further questions about how we work with them or the research they do? Comment below with any questions you may have and let’s chat!