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CBC/Radio-Canada builds on its trusted brand

Amid the world of "fake news" and a glut of media choices, the pubcaster remains a source of pride for Canadians, and brands.

CBC also cracked the Ipsos Ried influential brand study – the only media co on the list.

Trust remains a key barrier in the growth of programmatic. In fact, nearly half of respondents to a recent AOL and Brunico Communication survey said brand safety was a concern, while another 37% said ad fraud was top of mind. On the other side, one in three said there weren’t enough premium inventory products available.

It’s that gap that the CBC is hoping to bridge.

Two years ago, as the industry as a whole became more aware of, and active in the programmatic ad space, the pubcaster put the trade buying system at the heart of its media sales strategy, banking on its well-known and trusted brand recognition, says Jeff MacPherson director of monetization platforms and services, CBC & Radio-Canada media solutions.

The company was an early adopter as a founding member of Canada’s Premium Audience Exchange in 2012 and moved into the private exchange space in 2013. In 2015, it turned things up a notch. It became the first major media co in Canada to switch 100% of its display inventory over to programmatic first access via header-bidding, making all its desktop inventory available through its exchange partner Index Exchange.

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CBC/Radio-Canada has been experimenting with ad placements in an effort to get them as close to the brand’s premium content as possible.

Unlike the “waterfall” approach in which inventory is sold first to direct buyers, with the remnant passed along to programmatic buyers, header bidding puts programmatic buying at the top of the ad stack allowing programmatic demand to get a view of all inventory in order to acquire the audiences they are targeting.

This programmatic-first strategy takes into account CBC’s commitment to guaranteeing direct demand fulfillment, creating a more flexible, and ultimately valuable system for all demand sources, says MacPherson. It offers a more relevant advertising experience for the audience, making the experience better for both consumers and brands alike.

It marked a shift, and a bit of a gamble at the company, he adds, but it was a huge success and proved that both programmatic and direct could work for Canada’s national broadcaster. “In allowing 100% of display to be purchased programmatically instead of just the post direct-purchased inventory, we saw a 50% increase in programmatic revenue with no negative impact on our direct clients.”

A recent MOAT study measured the CBC on 32 separate metrics against the industry as a whole, and the results were more than favourable, notably the “human and viewable rate” (meaning it was viewable in a browser and seen by a human, not a bot) for desktop at 87.1% and mobile at 84.0%, surpassing the Canadian benchmark of 52.9% and 45.2%, respectively.

The result is a product that advertisers know is being seen by their intended audience, says Heather Gordon, digital sales director, CBC & Radio-Canada media solutions.

And the pubcaster continues to iterate on its product to make it even better, she says. “It’s an on-going priority to test and learn. We’re always experimenting with new and innovative ad units, and making sure we’re testing new high impact units and page-placements to try and get our ads integrated as closely as possible to our quality content.”


As the pubcaster deepens its digital presence, it’ll be rolling out programmatic ads for its online video content in the fall.

The CBC also offers programmatic header bidding for video inventory on its OTT platform. The product, currently in production, will also roll out across its in-page short clip players as it expands programmatically accessible inventory, MacPherson says.

Demand for its online video content has been high on the direct side, says Gordon, making it difficult to open it up programmatically. However, with the upcoming addition of dynamic ad insertion and outstream ads that run between paragraphs, the CBC is hoping to make a wider variety of the company’s video content available, effectively widening the breadth of the digital audience, which currently reaches 18 million Canadians monthly across all digital.

But more than reach, in this world of “fake news,” advertisers know there’s an inherent trust in the CBC, Gordon says.

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CBC maintains high trust among its audience, with four in 10 calling it trust-worthy source of information.

In a 2017 Ipsos Reid study, the CBC ranked as the 10th most influential brand in Canada – the only Canadian media company to make the list. Forty-four per cent said the brand inspires a sense of Canadian pride. Four in 10 respondents to the survey saw the media company as “dependable” (twice the average of the other brands measured by the poll), while 42% viewed the company as “reliable” (compared to 16% for the other brands).

And that’s no small thing: a global Polar and Ipsos Connect study found that when seen on premium trusted media platforms, consumer awareness of a brand’s ad message increased 69%, while purchase intent for a product increased 51%.

“In this environment of fake news and multiple sources competing for audiences, the quality of our news service has helped define us as the most trusted voice in news,” Gordon says. “Once you strip away the technology and innovation, I think that still remains a fundamental truth. Our programmatic platform allows brand access to those trusting eyeballs.”

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