Opportunity on the open internet

Nov 03, 2023
Adtech Trends

The open internet. It’s a phrase that has become part of the discourse in AdTech, but when asked to define it, it might make even seasoned industry veterans stumble. So, what does it really mean? The open internet is defined as free and open to all. It encompasses a vast number of digital platforms—apps, websites, connected TV and podcast networks, and more—where consumers can engage with free content funded through advertising.

At the other end of the spectrum, walled garden closed ecosystems such as Apple, Amazon, Google and Meta have their own content and set their own rules and restrictions.

For the average Canadian, the open internet is an open digital marketplace outside closed-walled gardens where ideas and commerce can flourish. It’s how you watch The Amazing Race, where you listen to Drake’s new album or spend hours gaming. With all the amazing content available on the open internet, it should be no surprise that Canadians are spending the majority of their time here online. From a marketer’s perspective, the open internet offers choice and control on how they can plan, buy, activate, and measure their campaigns, in contrast to relying on walled garden tools.

Rethink where your audience is

As mentioned, between gaming, streaming and more, there’s a huge amount of choice when it comes to where Canadians can spend their time online. Social media is often assumed to be a consumer’s largest digital footprint. However, recent research shows that Canadians are spending most of their time online outside of social media. Whether it’s podcasts, food blogs or catching up on the news, 57% of time spent online is outside the walled gardens. Surprised?  Think about your own internet usage – did you listen to music via an app on your commute to work this morning? How were you watching TV last night at home? Our time online is varied, and this is only expected to increase given the high satisfaction consumers feel when using the open internet.

Canadians feel better and trust the open internet more in managing their personal data

Having control over our personal data and making decisions over who has access is incredibly important to us Canadians. Our research shows that Canadians are more likely to trust open internet media channels in managing their personal data compared to walled gardens. Additionally, 20% more report feeling better after using or engaging with video streaming compared to social media. Brands want to show up in places where consumers feel a strong sense of security and engagement, which is exactly what the open internet provides. So why aren’t more advertisers investing there?

Advertisers are not putting budgets proportional to where people spend their time

Despite over half of consumers spending their time on the open internet, the ad dollars are not proportionate. The open internet only receives 19% of advertising budgets, which means 81% of those same budgets are being spent in walled gardens despite the fact Canadians spend less than half their time there. That’s a 38% missed chance for marketers to build positive brand association. If you consider the higher trust and attention paid on the open internet, the lost opportunities are even more costly. So not only are marketers missing out on a huge opportunity, but the walled gardens also aren’t giving them much incentive to keep their media dollars there.

Making the best decisions with limited ad dollars

Marketers need to carefully consider whether walled gardens are the best place for their ad dollars. Transparency and control should be at the forefront of all platform decisions so that marketers can truly gain insights into how their ad dollars are performing with an unbiased measurement solution.  Since consumers are spending majority of their time online visiting multiple channels across various content providers on the open internet, another important consideration is to work with a partner that can effectively deliver holistic omnichannel campaigns.  Oversaturation is obviously a negative ad experience for consumers and can be avoided by working with partners that are clear, communicative, and innovating in data-driven ways.

How advertisers can meet their goals on the open internet

If all the research about the value of the open internet hasn’t made it appealing enough for marketers, here are more reasons to advertise on the open internet. As previously mentioned, an omnichannel approach should be at the foundation of your campaign strategy. With all the ways we consume content today, if you’re not thinking holistically, you’re doing yourself and your brand a disservice. That’s why it’s necessary to work with partners who have a strong identity graph to holistically manage reach and frequency across streaming, audio, mobile and everywhere else on the open internet. Furthermore, the open internet offers more data to make the most informed media buys along with measurements that can show how your ad dollars are directly affecting your business goals. Retail data, consented first-party data, and more can be leveraged to reach the right audience at the right time. If you harness buying platforms with advanced identity graphs, you can get a holistic view of your campaigns in an omnichannel context and have better control overreach and frequency against your target audience.

The open internet clearly offers immense value, serving as a playground for creativity and choice for consumers and marketers. It’s where Canadians are most engaged and trust the management of their data. It’s where marketers can truly understand the effectiveness of their plans. In this digital landscape, the benefits are not only for consumers and marketers but also extend to media owners. By funding the open internet, advertisers uphold a virtuous cycle by fostering an environment of mutual trust and shared value. It ensures the continued support of content that matters most to Canadians and paves the way for sustainable growth and prosperity within our industry.

As you build your 2024 plans, consider the open internet to be an optimal place to effectively reach your audiences while contributing to a thriving environment funded by relevant advertising.

This blog is part of the CMA Adtech Committee’s Bi-Monthly Blog Series. Have an adtech-related question you want answered in an upcoming blog? Drop us a line.

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Jennifer Fields

Senior Director, Business Development The Trade Desk




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