Glass Half Full: Despite Popular Belief, Canada Ad Spending is On the Rise

August 29th, 2023 | Darrick Li, VP Sales, North America Media Owners, Guideline || Standard Media Index | SQAD | MediaTools | Lumina

It’s not new news that the pandemic upended every facet of consumer behavior – from travel regulations to entertainment shifts, and home DIY projects. But while society today operates in more of a post-pandemic fashion, many Canadian brands and advertisers are still coping with its impact – especially when it comes to advertising.

However, ad spending in Canada 1H 2023 said otherwise. And while the numbers may have been smaller compared to those from before the pandemic, the story is promising.

Positive story, eh?

While some Canadian marketers are experiencing a bit of a downturn in overall advertising spend, total spending actually remained relatively flat in the first half of 2023 (1H 2023). In fact, Canada ad spending was up 0.3% YoY – despite an ‘overly hot’ ad market in 2022 “post-pandemic.” And, when digging into the data, key categories drove growth.

Digital Dominated Dollars

If there’s one thing you can always count on when it comes to advertising, it’s that dollars follow consumer behavior, and, as some say, “where the eyeballs are.” Therefore, it’s not surprising we saw Digital ad spend increase significantly within the first half of 2023.

Overall, Digital media grew by 7% YoY. And as consumers continue to shift their focus towards long-form video and streaming, we saw Linear TV spending decline by 10% while OTT Video skyrocketed by a whopping 74% YoY. Worth noting, podcasts are still popular – boasting a 21% increase in the first half of 2023 compared to the year prior.

Out of Home Drove Up North

Speaking of eyeballs, many of them stayed indoors during the pandemic. I remember it quite clearly: the restrictions, lockdowns, stay-at-home advisories, and airport/travel limitations. This resulted in a hard hit to OOH, but we’ve since seen it spike as those limitations lifted – impressive growth for the category so far this year. In first half 2023, OOH showed double digit growth – up 14% YoY. While these numbers are still far from pre-pandemic levels, (down 35% compared to H1 of 2019), growth continues for the medium in a sign of sustainable strength.

Investing in Ourselves Catapulted Category Spend

As many stayed indoors, they turned to home improvement projects to pass the time while prioritizing personal care – both trends which have withstood pre-/post-pandemic shifts in consumer behavior. This resulted in a whopping 95% increase in ad spending within the Home Improvement and Gardening category and nearly doubling their ad spend in 2022. Despite soaring interest rates and the high cost of homes in Canada, the Real Estate category saw the same doubling of ad spending, up 102% vs. 2022. And in the first 6 months of 2023, we also saw a near $36 Million in incremental ad spending in the Personal Care categories (Hygiene, Skin Care, Makeup, Hair Care, etc) – a 15% increase in investment from the year prior in an already-major category of advertising.

It’s clear brands continue to capitalize on the opportunity to reach consumers passionate about these product categories post-pandemic. But where are they spending, you ask? Let us not forget where ad dollars flow. Yes, these categories are investing in Digital and OOH, both up 38% and 23% respectively, but they’re also investing in broadcast with TV up 3% and Radio up 68%. Within Digital, long-form video “OTT” was up 89%, Audio spend was up 171%, short-form video “OLV” up 29%, Display ad formats up 30%, and Search up 27%.

It’s important to highlight simultaneously that, Pharmaceuticals are driving ad spend growth in Canada with overall spend up 24% YoY, and first-time, new investment into areas like Programmatic DOOH and Podcasts. While Pharmaceuticals spending in Video ad formats isn’t new, it catapulted Display to the top spot with an incremental volume of $12.5 Million in spending in the first 6 months of 2023.

While it’s clear we are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, society has adjusted to a new normal – and that’s exactly what’s taking place today in advertising spend. Looking back on the past two years in comparison to today, advertising is bouncing back. Things have and will continue to return to “normal.”