Canadian Targeting Solutions for Tight Media Budgets

Picture of Tim Leys

Tim Leys

CEO & Partner at Consumer Intelligence Group (CiG)

CMOs are living in an ‘era of less,’ according to Gartner’s just-released 2024 CMO Spend Survey. This doesn’t surprise me at all. I talk to several Canadian marketing leaders every week, and there are three consistent trends I’m hearing:

  1. Budgets are tight.
  2. They’re being asked to do more with less.
  3. They lack the resources—whether talent, technology, data, or a combination of all three—to do what they know is the right thing to do.

Gartner’s recent survey puts actual data to what I’ve been hearing. In 2019, the average marketing budget was approximately 10.5% of total revenue; in 2024, it dropped to 7.7%.

That’s a significant percentage drop, happening at a time when marketing complexity—between media fragmentation, privacy regulation, and AI—has increased exponentially. With increased expectations and decreased budgets, marketers are doubling down on their paid media investments.

This increase in paid media comes with increased expectations for ROI or ROAS. In the same conversations, we also inevitably touch on AI. Despite the hype and real promise of AI—from GenAI for creative to AI insights tools—the reality is that most marketing teams are just beginning their experimentation around training LLMs or piloting in select use cases, AI will not be the silver bullet to increase ROI or ROAS over the short term.

As a marketing leader, you’re likely thinking, “Great, these are all things I’m fully aware of. Tell me something I don’t know.” That’s the Aha! moment I had recently. The solution isn’t something we haven’t tried, or even the latest tool or platform. Yes, I know I’m the CEO of a platform I’m selling to marketers. It’s taking a step back and taking a more macro view of marketing.

What do I mean?

At the end of the day, our purpose as marketers hasn’t changed. At its core, we still need to know and find the right audiences at the right moments, with the right message, to engage and drive action—from buying a certain brand of cereal to switching insurance. It starts with the right audience, full stop. 

No matter how much budget marketers shift to paid media, if a portion of it is not reaching the right audience across all channels, we’re wasting budget. Whether it’s acquisition media pushed to an existing customer or an offer delivered outside a store boundary, whether through digital, CTV, DOOH, or direct mail, these are media dollars wasted. 

How do we solve for this?

We need to better understand and segment our audiences and then have the means to reach them, not people who are sort of like them, or match them in other channels, reach them in an omnichannel way. 

Let’s take the case of our client Papa John’s, while their team had done a commendable job of optimizing their campaigns and promo offers to drive revenue, they were limited in their ability to refine their targeting to the right audience at the right time with the right message because of lack of resources, data, budget… The team focussed on optimizing the conversion rates of their campaigns based on the algorithms of the media channels. While effective, the reality was that their media dollars were completely missing specific audiences, and their promo offering wasn’t accurately reflecting the audience they were reaching. Though they were driving revenue, they were wasting media dollars.

"Once we started using intelligentVIEW, we gained many insights and a clear understanding of who Papa John's consumers actually are, compared to who we thought they were."
Chris Hannah
Marketing Manager at Papa John's

Read more about how Papa John’s achieved a 6% increase in comparable store sales

Over the last decade, between DSPs, SSPs, DCPs, and DMPs (on a side note, we’re playing a jargon game at our next CiG Team event, and obviously, I plan on winning), we’ve had advances in tools and platforms that help us connect increasingly fragmented media channels. With the inclusion of CTV, retail networks, and gaming audiences, there is so much opportunity to expand our media reach, but at what cost? 

In this era of more with less, we need to be very selective, but I’d argue it doesn’t start with the media channel, that’s the multi-channel programs we’ve been running for the last decade. It starts with the audience. An audience-first approach is the only way to really deliver effective omni-channel programs that minimize media waste. 

Circling back to all these conversations I’ve been having with marketing leaders, even more than AI, a greater concern is privacy and mitigating risk. As we move into a new era, every marketer worries about ending up on the front page or trending for the wrong reason. This is the second aha! moment. In Canada, we have a unique, fully anonymized, common identifier that can be used across every media channel: the (six-digit) postal code modelled down to household distributions.  

In many of these conversations, it takes only a few seconds for the light bulb to go off about how this is truly a future-proofed, compliant solution to identity, which can immediately help not only refine their targeting but also identify new audiences and opportunities. 

To overcome and thrive in this era of less, or ‘anemic’ marketing budgets, according to Gartner, the real opportunity is to streamline and focus on our audiences first and ensure that we know the most effective and efficient media channels to reach them.

Yes, all the sophisticated optimization and retargeting tools today can quickly optimize down to the highest converting audience and even go out and find lookalikes to that converting audience. But what if, instead of wasting some of your initial budget potentially targeting the wrong or not-quite-right audience from the beginning, marketers started with a much more granular understanding of their target audiences? What if they can, with the assumption that our customers and prospective customers live somewhere that’s covered by a six-digit postal code, align multiple digital (Google DV, TTD, Meta, TikTok..), offline (OOH, DM, in-store treatments, events…), traditional (TV, Radio, print..) efficiently target the same audience(s)?  

You could do more with the same or less, right? You would create a better brand experience, probably? All while being on the right side of privacy and compliance. 

At CiG, we recognize that pinpointing your target audience is crucial for crafting impactful marketing campaigns. That’s why our intelligentVIEW platform is designed to provide unmatched insights into the Canadian market, empowering marketers to uncover new opportunities and execute precise omnichannel campaigns.

With access to an extensive data ecosystem featuring over 30,000 consumer variables from trusted sources like Numeris, Statistics Canada, and national census projections, we enable our clients to create detailed audience segments. These segments encompass demographic profiles, household spending patterns, digital behaviours, media consumption habits, and lifestyle preferences.

Our data-driven methodology, bolstered by a digital audience database of over 30 million individuals covering more than 93% of Canadian households, ensures your marketing efforts hit the mark. Whether through direct mail, digital platforms, or broadcast media, our platform facilitates reaching your audience via the most effective channels. This precision targeting drives higher engagement and maximizes ROI, turning data into a powerful ally in your marketing strategy.

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