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2024 Media Insights: Pivotal Trends Shaping Canada’s Digital Landscape

Retail media is one to pay serious attention to, with smart TV ownership and audio consumption patterns shaping new consumer touch points.

As we step into 2024, we’re entering a transformative era in the Canadian media landscape and digital media trends. There continues to be strong consumer and advertiser forces reshaping our industry, and this year we’re at a juncture where digital innovations are rapidly emerging and consumer behaviors are evolving in new ways. From the significant rise of retail media networks to AI’s role in content and performance marketing, each trend is shaping broader change that we are helping our clients adapt to. 

So, as we explore these key trends that are redefining what lands on media plans this year, let’s focus on understanding the ‘why’ behind them. It’s an exciting, challenging time in our industry, ripe with opportunities for those who are prepared to lead and innovate. Here are the top trends we’ve identified across a number of industry outlook reports. 

1. Retail Media Networks Eclipsing 20% of Digital Ad Spend

There has been remarkable growth in retail media. The format has been growing significantly, driven primarily by e-commerce and what we see as a demand by advertisers to diversify away from the duopoly. Retail media now represents over 20% of digital ad spend in Canada. This is an impressive number that shouldn’t be ignored, especially by those who are in retail doors or on retail ecomm sites. Though search formats make up roughly 60% of retail media spend, it’s not just digital channels that can be effective here. Some of our clients at Other. are not only investing into digital advertising products, but taking a step further with in-store audio ads, screens, and more. 

Key Takeaway: Retail media networks aren’t just growing; they’re transforming the advertising landscape, offering unique and effective ways to connect with consumers. It’s essential to understand the channel and the formats that can be utilized.

2. Smart TVs: Over 55% Ownership Transforming Viewing Habits

There is no doubt that traditional TV provides both significant reach and impact but its official – video streaming penetration is now greater than TV. According to the eMarketer Global Intelligence Report for Canada, more viewers (92.9%) watched an on-demand or streaming service than live TV (83.1%) in H1 2023, indicating a trend for 2024. Smart TVs, also known as Connected TVs (CTV) are beginning to reshape content consumption in Canada. With over 55% of Canadians now owning a Smart TV and more than ¾ of those streaming on one, there’s a significant move towards viewing digital content and streaming programming on the bigger screen. This isn’t just about technology upgrades; it’s about a cultural shift in media consumption and the opportunities it brings for advertisers. With consumers continuing to adopt Smart TVs and increasing their streaming consumption, advertisers can begin feeling more comfortable with the reach and impact of advertising products that are emerging. Last year we ran a number of CTV initiatives for our clients using YouTube CTV placements and a number of other vendors, with promising results in organic search lift and self-reported attribution on orders. 

Key Takeaway: Smart TVs open new possibilities for CTV advertising, making it a critical component for reaching modern audiences. At 55%, Smart TV ownership paired with consumer preferences in content consumption could provide an opportunity for your brand. 

3. Audio Consumption: Digital and Traditional Formats Both in Decline

Canada’s audio market is shifting, with both traditional (terrestrial) radio and digital formats like music streaming and podcasts experiencing declines in H1 2023. Although 2022 exhibited a resurgence of listenership from pre-COVID levels, last year had a drop of about 11.5% during this period, down 10 minutes to just 59 minutes daily for broadcast radio, down six minutes for music streaming and down nine minutes for podcast engagement, falling to 1 hour and 30 minutes, and 43 minutes daily, respectively. Though broadcast radio penetration (72.5%) is still barely higher than digital (72.3%), it is beginning to see the drop off amongst rural populations (-10%) which will accelerate the decline likely due to numerous station closures. These trends reflect changing listening habits, with traditional radio impacted by altered commuting patterns and digital formats possibly reaching saturation. The fragmented landscape offers more choices, but also poses challenges in maintaining listener engagement.

Key Takeaway: This evolving audio landscape in Canada suggests a need for continuing to balance investments based on audience demographics and campaign objectives. Marketers should focus on understanding these shifts and developing content that resonates with the changing preferences of Canadian listeners with distribution on the platform channel most relevant to their audiences. 

4. Social Media: Approaching a Plateau with Slight Time Spent Decrease

As we analyze the social media trends in Canada for 2024, a nuanced shift emerges. Daily usage has slightly decreased to an average of 1 hour and 55 minutes, indicating a potential saturation in the market. This subtle decline is particularly significant considering the traditionally steady rise of social media engagement over the years.

A key metric to note is the diversification of platform usage, especially amongst younger users. For instance, Gen Z users are increasingly engaging with a wider array of platforms. 

While social network penetration remains high at 94.2%, the usage pattern is evolving. Users are not just confined to one or two platforms; many are spreading their online time across multiple networks. Nearly two-thirds of internet users reported using between three and eight different social networks and messaging services. This trend indicates a shift from a dominant platform model to a more eclectic social media landscape.

This diversification also reflects in the way social media is being used. Engagement is becoming more purposeful and active. Users are seeking content that resonates with their individual interests and values, moving away from passive consumption to more interactive and community-oriented experiences. At Other. we see this in the ad creative that is generating the highest engagement on these platforms – which is repeatedly UGC focused and platform relevant. 

Key Takeaway: For marketers, the evolving social media scene in Canada necessitates a nuanced approach. The key lies in understanding the changing patterns of user engagement of your audience and tailoring strategies accordingly. As the landscape matures, success in social media marketing will hinge on the ability to connect authentically and engage users on a deeper level.

5. AI in Content Marketing: Utilization by 32% of Global Marketers

AI’s role in content marketing is evolving from a buzzword to a crucial tool. Around 32% of global marketers now employ AI, reflecting its growing importance in creating and personalizing content. This marks a significant shift in how marketing strategies are developed and executed. Aside from AI that is already integrated into ad platforms, the technology is being used within the content and creative industries to help with brainstorming and to enhance volume and velocity of creative output. If you want to learn more about where performance creative is headed, check out this article by my colleague Leo Tamburri. 

Key Takeaway: AI is helping brand and marketing teams become more efficient overall. It  offers new efficiencies and capabilities that are becoming essential in a competitive market where speed, volume, and velocity of content are critical. But, don’t forget that content always requires strong marketing fundamentals to be as effective as possible.

The Canadian media sector is at a crossroads, offering unique opportunities for innovation and leadership. For VPs and CMOs, it’s a critical moment to harness these trends – from retail media networks to evolving digital habits – and shape the future of media and marketing. This era demands not just adaptation but visionary strategies that will chart the course of the industry in Canada. 

If you want deeper information on any of these digital media trends, or are looking for unbiased advice on where to invest your media dollars for the best commercial impact – you can always reach out to us here at Other. 

eMarketer, “Global Media Intelligence Report 2023: Canada”, October 2023
eMarketer, “Canada Trends to Watch”, December 2023