Industry Insight: TAXI Executive Strategic Director Maxine Thomas on Clients and Consumers in Canada’s Digital Domain

Canada’s online advertising revenues have surpassed print, reflecting the behaviors and preferences of clients and consumers across the country.

Maxine Thomas, VP, Executive Strategic Director at TAXI Canada, felt that discernable shift over the past year. As though someone flipped a switch, she said, the psychological barriers that were keeping clients from taking the leap into digital broke down. Clients began paying attention to the value of social and online media, and social media suddenly became integrated into traditional media, driving consumers online.

Online spends cannot be measured in the same way as traditional, and as such, Maxine encourages her clients to look at online spend as a research expenditure, rather than a marketing expenditure. Experimenting with new media is a collaborative leap into the unknown for most clients and agencies, and the past two years have offered a chance for both TAXI and its clients to learn together.

For clients such as TELUS, with whom TAXI has partnered for many years, digital communication is an inherent behavior. Shifting advertising dollars into channels that complement the technological product TELUS offers its customers wasn’t such a mental hurdle.

Other TAXI clients remain reliant on TV, though, and these clients are not alone. Though Canada’s online ad revenues are now greater than print, online still sits in second place. TV retained the top spot despite almost constant year over year growth, while online revenues grew 23% from 2009 to 2010. 

The challenge for agencies and clients remains how to manage and integrate the new media, as the seemingly exponential possibility of the Internet faces off with traditional media buys and uncertain returns. The majority of media companies still operate within an outdated business model that buys traditional media in bulk and parcels it out to clients. This clunky system handcuffs creative planning and strategy, preventing new options or nimble solutions from making it on to a media plan in any meaningful way.

The days of one-size-fits-all strategy, if such a thing ever existed, are gone. When a media plan allows for it, there is more potential than ever to customize contact points and find the most intriguing, engaging and creative way to meet consumers’ needs.

Annual or quarterly planning is also gone. Campaigns are always on, with the need and possibility for adjustment and optimization in real-time. Access to real-time information has caused borders to disappear, giving consumers a global frame of reference, and it is the consumer who reacts to, operates in and shapes new media every day. Maxine believes that is the benefit to advertisers working to observe and affect consumers’ behavior.

"You have to be the consumer to understand the consumer," Maxine said. Cross-pollination happens because people are just living their lives. As advertisers, we can simultaneously observe and participate, but must recognize that we have little, if any, control and must work for our influence. The producers of broadcast and traditional media may have controlled the message, but digital does not work that way.

The shift does not concern Maxine, it excites her. With TAXI since 1996, Maxine and her team of strategists have always thought through the depth of potential contact points to solve a problem or shape the opportunity at hand. TAXI itself was founded on the collision of advertising and design (introducing design as a discipline to the market), so integrating a new discipline is not intimidating. With a large digital team now in place to support increasing client demand, TAXI and Maxine face the future hand-in-hand with consumers, and a step ahead of clients.

Both are poised for the next chapter in this evolving storyline, the one where online takes down television ad revenues and assumes the number one spot. Canada, are you ready for that day? Do you think it will actually come? Please weigh in with your comments, below, or via Facebook or Twitter.

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