Susan is a highly experienced marketing executive with over 15 years in a variety of key leadership roles. When she's not building a great business (Vovia), she is off adventuring and travelling the world. You might also run into her on the ski hill or in a hot yoga class.

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Who Can You Really Trust in the Media Landscape?

With the rise of advertising click fraud and data breaches of customer data, it is challenging for marketers to know where to invest and who to trust. How do you ensure the data and insights you receive from platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Twitter are accurate and not inflated so you spend more advertising dollars with them? These are some big questions, so how should you keep them accountable in 2019?

Who Can You Really Trust in the Media Landscape?

Which Media  Platforms Can You Trust?


We all know that Zuckerberg has been under a lot of heat this year, and we all have our concerns on if we should continue to invest in this channel. But based on our latest data, Facebook continues to work. In fact, our digital media experts tell me they are seeing not only customer growth but also those using it are heavier users and spending more time within the application. From a performance standpoint, we have seen some clients that are seeing it outperform Google on Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) metrics. So, if you are still debating what to do with this channel, we would advise that you keep investing due to it having the highest global usage penetration.


They continue to evolve their offering with new ad formats, policy changes, even changing the name of various platforms. There’s no denying that all these changes would drive anyone nuts! Of particular note is the bidding cap issue which we feel was an ill-advised change as it’s resulted in less budget control for our clients and can easily result in an overspend. All that said, as long as you know how to navigate these changes (something our relationship with Google has allowed us to do in advance of other agencies), your business should not have been impacted.

We are believers in constantly testing new technology the minute it comes out and we have seen a lot of success among various Google products. A few that seemed to take off for us included Dynamic Remarketing ads, various smart bidding features and Smart Shopping. However, we know performance can fluctuate with these new and evolving products and what your competitors are doing and offering. Despite these advantages to investing in Google ad products, we need to watch out for Google’s constant push on artificial intelligence (AI). AI works best with lots of data but if your business’s site isn’t driving sizable volume then it’s best to proceed with caution and ensure you have a strong media partner to help you navigate where machine learning is strong and where it could burn through your budget! We find that this automation works best when fine-tuned by a human (preferably by a Digital Specialist) who understands the implications of optimizing alongside automation tools.

Should we care about anyone else – Absolutely!

We know Google and Facebook want it all! Our mission is to always be loyal to performance. In order to fulfill this, we ensure we are constantly testing new platforms and media channels. A few we have been impressed with this past year include:

  • Pelmorex Audience (Pelmorex bought Addictive Mobility last year) – A Canadian media partner that sources location data from permissions within The Weather Network and Metro Media app usage allowing a variety of targeting options such as geo-fencing and behavioural.
  • Cluep – Another Canadian media partner with targeting capabilities around social media conversations, images they are posting on social, and real-world behaviours through multiple mobile signals.
  • Quantcast – A global media partner that utilizes predictive targeting based on AI-driven audience behaviour, tapping into first party website data and beyond.

Let’s not forget for those in e-commerce there is another big player that can’t be ignored. Amazon Advertising is here and it’s growing. In the US, 71% of current Amazon advertisers spend up to 25% of their digital ad spend within Amazon. This should paint a picture of what we might see in the coming years here in Canada. But enough about the US, let’s highlight some healthy Canadian stats:

  • CPA Canada notes 31% of Canada’s shoppers say online advertising influences their purchase decisions.
  • eMarketer reports that 30% of Canada’s total retail sales in 2018 were via mobile devices.
  • Amazon shared that 83% of Canadians shop on Amazon.  
    • Source: 1) Q4 2017, Amazon Internal, “Active WW customer accounts represents accounts that have placed an order in the preceding 12 months period” 2 ) ComScore January, 2018 3) ComScore Plan Metrix Key Measure Report, November 2017 (desktop only
    • They have 21MM Canada Monthly unique visitors
      • Source: ComScore January, 2018
    • They visit 45 pages per month
      • Source: ComScore Plan Metrix Key Measure Report, November 2017 (desktop only)

What about offline media, you might ask?

Based on IAB’s latest CMUST 2018 report, digital keeps growing as does the adoption of smart devices; however, TV is still on the top for weekly reach/minutes among those 18+ at 95%, with internet following at 90%. Radio is still a close third at 87%. What we continue to see is the younger segment (18-24) spends the majority of their time with the Internet.

Another thing we are passionate about is how the offline channels are investing and focusing their efforts on measurability, especially OOH media partners. One example is Pattison who has partnered with Pelmorex. Pelmorex has geofenced all Pattison locations and has this data (where trackable) connecting to our mobile GPS data, as well as Environics segmentation data. If that isn’t creepy enough for you it also leverages Statistics Canada Census data as well. To be clear, this data is all collected and aggregated, so they are not tracking YOU, but rather building pools of users that exhibit similar behaviour. It’s crazy how driving past a billboard that is linked to those other data sources can track your to-and-from behaviour (i.e. your home, to work etc.), how frequently you pass by those boards, even if you eventually go to the retail store advertised on the board. Now if that isn’t enough information for you, they are happy to chat about how this type of OOH buy can impact both campaign recall and brand lift. This is a perfect example of how the times continue to change and how offline and online are becoming highly connected.  

Long story short, all the channels play a role and influence each other. The challenge is figuring out what is most relevant to whom and how we can most accurately measure that impact.

How to Measure and Hold Media Accountable

You need to demand more of your partners. Transparency is crucial to combat the issues of ad fraud and viewability. I can’t tell you the number of times we move on to a new partners’ business and learn that what their previous agency shared in performance reporting wasn’t accurate as it contained fraud, internal traffic, double counting – you name it we’ve seen it all! Sometimes the analytic set up is more cumbersome and critical than the media set up, to assure the data lens you are looking through is factual.

The other trend we are seeing within platform reporting is that media channels are not being compared accurately. As an example, Facebook measures a video view if a user has 50% or more of the video viewable for 3 seconds. Would you be satisfied if your videos were only viewed for 3 seconds? Likely not. To combat this, it’s best to establish consistent tracking in Google Analytics so that you are measuring video performance across all channels consistently. This requires more effort to ensure channels are tagged appropriately, but it gives you invaluable performance insight that you can use to improve your campaigns, your creative, even selecting the right channels.

Another huge benefit of this type of tracking is that it reduces the ambiguity in Google Analytics. If channels are not tracked, Google will often lump performance for all these channels (paid and non-paid) into one bucket – making it impossible for you to know which channels to keep, and which to cut.

Keep in mind that while Facebook and Google are widely trusted sources, they, along with many other platforms you may be using, all report data differently, and each platform has a bias towards themselves. Having one consistent measurement platform (most often, this is Google Analytics) allows you to make informed decisions that are best for your business.

I have always been a skeptic that if the media channel is charging you for ads and reporting on performance, you better have your checks and balances in place to hold them accountable. This will enable your business to ensure what you are reporting on is actually what you are experiencing.

To combat this our firm has implemented campaign management tools to ensure we can collect comparable data across all digital channels.  We have also devised our own attribution model to help us confirm if what we see in various platforms gels with our performance understanding or if the data from the media partner is heavily skewed. This information and knowledge help us protect our clients and ensure the budget is being spent efficiently.

Finally, the most important thing you can do, especially if you are the client and you own the final piece of the puzzle, is to regularly review your business performance and measure it against your media performance. We prefer to link business performance to media performance so that we can understand how and why media drives performance. It also allows us to understand your challenges and identify opportunities. Business performance is really the most valuable information you can feed into your own attribution and performance-based models.

In summary, yes you can trust the giant media firms to a point, but make sure you diversify your investment and have the right analytical checks and balances in place. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team.