Digital marketing an untapped gold mine for Canadian firms

The fact that Canadians spend as much as 20 to 30 per cent of their media consumption time on digital channels presents great marketing opportunities.

Unfortunately, it’s not a phenomenon marketers here are really taking advantage of, says an interactive marketing expert.

“Canadian marketers are only spending eight to 12 per cent of their advertising budgets in the space,” says Adrian Capobianco, president and partner at Toronto-based Quizative Inc.

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“Many of them are clearly being left behind by the digital bandwagon.”

Capobianco will be a presenter at the upcoming CMA (Canadian Marketing Association) 2009 Marketing Week conference in Toronto November 11 and 12. His presentation is titled: Beyond Broadcast: Engaging your audience.

Digital marketing balancing act

Many companies are doing a “digital marketing balancing act,” says Capobianco, who is co-chair of the “Digital Day” segment of the CMA conference. “Traditional media is constantly under pressure, but many marketers are not ready to leave it behind completely.”

Capobianco emphasizes that his company Quizative is not “digitally myopic” and is always willing to work on a blend of media, but says many Canadian firms are missing a lot of opportunity by dragging their heels.

What was heralded in the early 1980s as digital media, Capobianco said, is now being superseded by its new iteration, driven by the current social networking craze.

He said traditional digital media marketing created campaigns around the Internet and e-mail marketing as well as Web sites, and focused on search engine optimization and search marketing.

“Today’s emerging trends now require marketers to have a presence on social networking media, mobile platforms and even the gaming sector,” he said.

Ken Schafer, a Toronto-based marketing specialist agrees.

“More and more companies will be moving towards a Web first business model,” said Schafer, vice-president of product management and marketing at Tucows Inc.

As part of this, he said, all marketing efforts would be “focused on enhancing the firm’s Internet presence,”

For example, Schafer said, while Apple Inc.’s magazine and TV ads “appeal to the emotions”, more information about the company’s products are found on the Apple Web site.

Recent figures from comScore Inc. indicate Canadian Internet users have passed the 24 million mark and more than 72 per cent of the country’s population now has Web access.

An Ipsos Reid survey of 4,466 Canadians commissioned by Telus also found that 74 per cent of children are allowed by their parents to spend between one to five hours on the Internet per week and that 59 per cent of teens claim they cannot live without Internet access.

Mismanagement of mobile

Mobile marketing is yet another area with tremendous potential that’s being ignored or mismanaged by many marketers, says Deb Hall, managing director at Web2Mobile in Toronto.

Web2Mobile helps businesses engineer mobile content so it looks better and is easier to use on mobile devices.

“As many as 30 to 40 per cent of users are checking their e-mail on cell phones and smartphones, yet just 0.8 per cent of e-mail newsletters are formatted for mobile devices,” Hall said.

Web content that’s created for desktop or notebook computer screens typically won’t be suitable for smartphones, she said. “Video files don’t stream flawlessly, text is too small, images get cut off or look distorted”.

Hall believes her company is sitting on a goldmine that North Americans are just becoming aware of, but is being feverishly mined in Asia.

“In Asia, mobile technology is being used for entertainment, streaming TV, music, getting directions and shopping.”

Many Asian nations are “leaps and bounds ahead of the West” in this area, she said.

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Associations (CWTA) predicts that will change soon. Recent figures from the CTWA indicate that wireless service providers are reporting data growth rates in excess of 50 per cent per quarter.

The association expects consumption to reach more than $3 billion in the next three years as Canadians demand for more non-voice wireless services such as e-mail, social networking, Web-browsing, music downloads, mobile televisions, satellite radio and instant messaging.

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