Sports Post Pandemic

I confess, usually in a typical week at this time of year, I would watch 2 Leaf games, a Raptors game, attend a TFC game (I am a long term season ticket holder), maybe catch a few innings of a Jays game, the Sunday telecast of a PGA golf event, talk sports at work, peruse daily, talk EPL soccer at the pub and, if the weather permitted, play a game of tennis, a round of golf and maybe even a pick–up soccer game. So yes, I miss sports.

Some people blame our beloved  Toronto teams for the shutdowns.

Virtually every sports league and major event (Olympics, Euro2020, Wimbledon) has been cancelled or postponed.

For some, the time spent watching sports has been “partially” replaced by more engagement with e-sports, video gaming, twitching; but for me, that isn’t the same buzz as a whole city rallying behind a Raptors playoff run or a good Leaf flame out in round one playoffs. There is no doubt the adoption and use of e-sports, YouTube gaming live, Twitch and their growing relationship with sports leagues will be accelerated.

When sports do return, the NHL, NBA and MLB teams will be playing  to empty stadiums. While the sports audience is primarily Broadcast/streaming vs in–stadium, the energy in and around arenas ( bars, restaurants, street viewing) will be lost. Leagues that rely to a greater extent on gate receipts  (eg. NHL), will be hurt the most.

This period of playing to empty stadiums will be a great time to accelerate testing of immersive VR, interactive co-viewing experiences via mobile, behind the scenes “ insider” views of pregame preparation, action on the bench, choose your own camera angles, contests, and more. Monetizing the game experience could be another revenue stream for teams hurt by ticket sales revenue evaporating.

But what changes when we can return to stadiums? Ticket sales will possibly start in smaller numbers.

Digital ticketing and contactless payments were already becoming the norm, but how about branded face masks instead of team scarves handed out at the gate, all food pre-ordered and there for pick up, washroom break times pre-allocated to reduce numbers.

Forbes recently listed off ways in which fans will have a heightened since of awareness for hygiene and how stadiums may consider accommodating the new needs. Here are a few examples:

  1. Preparation: Fans will not want to directly touch their food with their hands. Can hot dogs be half-wrapped or can there be a spout for popcorn? What else can be done to make this easier?
  2. Condiments: A condiment bar is full of germs. Should all condiments start being individually packaged?
  3. Gloves: Should gloves be offered with meals? Or upon entrance to the gate?
  4. Payment: People will not want to sign anything with a public pen. Tap-and-go options should be offered.
  5. Ordering: Staff members should touch as few things and people as possible. Plan for online ordering for concessions and merchandise and fans can simply come by to pick it up.
  6. Process: Ushers shouldn’t grab tickets to check them. What happens with the passing of programs or giveaways?
  7. Staff Apparel: Are staff wearing masks and gloves? Potential disadvantage: wearing a mask in a loud arena will make communication difficult. 
  8. Staff Testing: Will staff be tested and certified? How can you publicize that knowledge (HIPPA)?
  9. Restrooms: Automatic faucets and toilets should be a must. What else should be done?
  10. Mobile Vendors: Exchanging or passing cash down the row is done. What should Hawkers do? How do they sell? Is that eliminated?

For now, experiencing and learning within video gaming, e-sports, Twitch and other platforms that have already replaced much of sports viewing for Gen Z.

In the near future, sports sponsors and broadcasters can  create new opportunities to engage sports audiences via VR, new complimentary experiences, ( chose camera angle, become the announcer, “bet” points on the next goal/penalty , penalty shot results).

Whats’ next? In-stadium audiences may include client branded face masks, gloves, scarves, hand sanitizer, pre-paid food cards, and clients sponsoring cable net or DAZN subscriptions for 6 months?

While there are arguably much bigger issues and priorities to address before the return of sports, I do look forward to the day that we can all enjoy the passion, the dedicated athletes, the friendly banter, the weekend warriors and hope that life returns to  those employed directly by, and those that benefit by association (bars, restaurants, hotels) to the game of sports.

I welcome others to share their thoughts about sports now, in the near term and the lasting impact of the pandemic.

True Media Canada COVID-19 Media Impact, Part 3

Key Takeaways:
  • Re-think how to sell to customers with social distancing measures and worry of the unknowns (i.e. strengthen eComm, over-communicate with customers on what their options are for buying).
  • Be where the customers are to stay top-of-mind, even if they are mostly focused on essential goods.
  • COVID-19 is a disruptive time that gives brands the chance to deepen the connection with current consumers or to develop a relationship with a new customer. Better to have relevant and more emotional advertising/messaging in the market than nothing at all to be top-of-mind. This is a time when new habits could be made.

Now that it has been a few weeks of limited movement with fridges become sparse, we were interested in understanding how principal grocery shoppers and meal planners are adjusting to the new normal.

With limited outings, line-ups at grocery stores and a house full of family looking for home cooked meals and variety it has not been an easy adjustment. From the data, we have seen that people are list making, sourcing new recipes and then checking for ingredients. They are meal planning for several days at a time and stocking up at the supermarket.

The online food and lifestyle category saw weekly time spent go up 27% from Feb 3 to 9, and then an additional 44% from March 2 to 8. Again, list making, recipe exploration and meal fatigue are setting in.

One not surprising change in behavior, is the pivot to online grocery ordering. Canadians have been behind the curve in both online grocery and e-commerce. Will this be a permanent change or will we return to “social” shopping and welcome seeing/feeling produce and meeting with store owners/staff?

The Food & Beverage category, which has the lowest penetration within eComm sales, has been forecasted in early 2020 to be the fastest growing. We anticipate this number to surge with the growing demand for grocery eComm, especially with the momentum coming from the mandate to stay at home, limitation of essential services and the inconveniences caused by the new rules implemented for safe shopping (i.e. limiting number of people in stores; reduced store hours for sanitization and re-stocking; alternative shopping options like curb-side pickup that doesn’t allow for product discovery in stores). Grocery eComm habits could be made during these unprecedented situations, which could pave way for continued traction even after COVID-19.

Household essential purchases are key as people prepare to stay at home for extended periods. Once COVID-19 became mass news, the Health category had the greatest spike in likelihood for purchase.

By March 15 (after the World Health Organization announced COVID-19 as a global pandemic on March 11), overall spending likelihood increased, particularly in the food, dollar, club, mass and liquor categories.

People may over-stock both online and in brick- and-mortar due to the many unknowns. eComm giant Amazon is delaying delivery of items deemed as “non-essential” to focus on ensuring essential goods arrive in a timely manner. Amazon said that it would only stock items in six essential categories: baby products, health and household, beauty and personal care, grocery, industrial and scientific and pet supplies. If COVID-19 spreads even more and overwhelms the industry infrastructure, Amazon may stop taking orders for non-essentials beyond just France and Italy.

Overall, online shopping is on the rise as consumers are maneuvering through this new normal. One of the main Canadian media conglomerates, Rogers, has seen a 53% increase in interactions and a 21% increase in checkouts from their Contobox Shoppable Units (discovery display units that act like a microsite). Also, there has been significant visit increases to Today’s Shopping Choice especially in the electronics and health & fitness categories – its demand is from mobile devices which is up 49.7% overall and 81.6% during the workday (9-6pm).

What is True Local?

At True Media, innovation is one of our four core values. Each month we award teams who demonstrate internal or client innovations, and at the end of the year we award one overall Innovation Award winner that stood out amongst other winners. This year’s Innovation Award winner is Senior Search Strategist Steve Sherfy for his leadership in the True Local initiative. 


True Local is a management services and review monitoring platform that enables you to view and respond to customer reviews in one place. It gathers information from your stores, uploads and maintains listings. This includes changes to hours, new stores, and consistent brand information. True Local also provides a single platform from which you can reply directly to customer reviews — an essential practice for improving local search result performance. 

Who Needs It
  • Any brand with brick and mortar locations needs a local SEO program which extends beyond the search platforms to other directory sites like Apple Maps, Foursquare,, Facebook, etc.
  • With Google now incorporating GMB location activity into the paid search metrics, along with the store visit conversion paid search metric, a local SEO program is more important than ever for your brand. 
Successes – Client A
  • 27% increase in total views of their listings
  • 16% increase in views on search results and a 43% increase in views on map results
  • Total interactions with the listings increased 60% with a 59% increase in clicks to the banking website, 15% increase in clicks for driving directions and an 82% increase in clicks to call a bank location
Successes – Client B

Within first 90 days on the program we were able to show our client:

  • Over 1.1MM views of their business listings
  • Approximately 12,000 store visits
  • Estimated 7,800 in-store purchases
  • Worth an estimated $297K
  • ROI of 94:1

Search Strategy Q&A

Google has been investing in its shopping products to keep up with competitors like Amazon and Instagram. Recently, Google revamped its shopping program to include visual product search, price tracking, and a “buy with Google” capability. True Media Senior Search Strategist Steve Sherfy is here to to help you understand what this means and how exactly it will effect Search Advertising. 

Q: How do these updates change the game for Search?

A: For quite some time the game has been ‘find it on Google, buy it elsewhere (either on Amazon or the seller directly)’. Other platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram have moved into their territory in the ‘discovery’ phase, but most people still fall back to the idea of searching on Google for the things they discovered on the other platforms and buying through shopping ads or buying on Amazon.  With Google adding in the “buy with google” feature, it is an attempt to capitalize further by bringing the purchase in house and away from retailer sites and Amazon as much as possible. This shows that the new battle is time on platform — with the longer the time on any one platform, the more likely that platform will be utilized through the entire buying cycle. This change illustrates that shopping has fundamentally changed and it is not going back to previous formats.  For most retail clients that means adjusting how they think of reaching their customers and earning their customer’s purchases. Optimized product feeds and shopping ads are no longer something nice to do, they are a necessity.

Q: In regards to the updates being an attempt to compete with Amazon and Instagram — who do you think will accomplish this best in terms of growth and opportunity? 

A: Google has made themselves synonymous with discovery and these new features play into the growing consumer demand for ease and quickness of purchase.  If they are able to seamlessly integrate the entire cycle for the consumer, Amazon is the most likely to feel the pinch.

Q: Google will soon be beta testing the ability to automatically optimize for brick and mortar store visits into campaign, as well as segmenting out new customer acquisition shopping campaigns from those for existing customers.  How can this help retail clients specifically?

A: Some retail clients still do not have e-commerce as a high priority, especially clients in the Farm and Home space, where many products have shipping charges that make buying online a less desirable choice.  With store visit conversions being a metric to optimize against, this can be a game changer for these retail clients, allowing them to enter into the shopping campaign space with an offline goal that can be strategize and measured.

Q: Google is also attempting to fine-tune its search results to handle more general searches. For example, broad based searches would include typing “living room ideas” or “outfits for Fall” — these searches will now result in more image-driven advertisements, along with aggregated content. How does this change how keywords are used? Will they be necessary or used moving forward? 

A: There will never be a time when keyword-based search is a necessary tactic for paid search.  However, keyword-based campaigns do need to evolve with consumer search practices along with available options for targeting.  These changes bring to the forefront the need to segment paid search campaigns by age and other demographic indicators as generational differences in online discovery and purchases have never been greater.

Reaching Your Audience with Connected TV

Connected TV (CTV) is predicted to have an adspend of $7 billion by the end of 2019, and will only keep growing  — forecasted to reach $14 billion by 2023. YouTube, Hulu, and Roku, currently make up about 70% of the total adspend, the other 20% is made up by streaming video services run by TV networks. Despite these incredible numbers, there is still some caution around the idea of CTV ads because of the challenges that present themselves when gauging impact… So how should you approach CTV advertising? 

The first step in approaching CTV advertising is with the understanding that the process of purchasing doesn’t need to be (and won’t be) the same as linear TV. Media buyers are accustomed to purchasing for specific networks and dayparts, but that is not usually an option with CTV  — and that’s okay. 

“The beauty of media in 2019 is that it is (or should be) audience first. This means that we are less concerned about the exact daypart and program an ad ran in, and more concerned about if we reached the correct target audience,”  True Media Associate Media Director Elizabeth Van Kort explained. “The wonderful thing about CTV is that we aren’t held to the same constraints of “how we’ve always done it” and can instead focus on the most effective and efficient way to ensure our client’s ads are served to their target audience.”

Measurement on CTV ads to date has certainly been one of the main limitations of this emerging channel. eMarketer reports that in a March 2019 poll of 350 US marketers, 27% of respondents said that inadequate campaign measurement was a top obstacle that prevented them from investing more in over-the-top (OTT) video ads. 

CTV can report with the same level of data as TV, but that leaves digital marketers hungry for much more. Currently CPM’s and completion rates are the main indicators for effectiveness, but there have been recent advancements in CTV measurement. Specifically Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) data, which allows marketers to have a 1-1 linking between a CTV and online user. This allows for true cross-device attribution, and while the scope of this is still limited, it is growing as the adoption of smart TVs increases. 

“For those who use eligible Smart TVs and have opted in to the ACR data, we have a full view of attribution across TV, mobile, desktop, and tablets. This allows us to see a user’s full journey across these devices and how the channels work together to convert a user. Understanding path to conversion is key to developing an accurate attribution model,”  Van Kort said.

Another issue that comes up regularly with CTV is ad fraud. The demand for CTV inventory is high and the supply can be limited — creating an opportunity for advertisers to be tricked into buying inventory that doesn’t exist. This unfortunate reality means working with the right people is even more important. At True Media we partner with Coegi, who has a 3rd party verified fraud rate under 2% and actively work to combat fraud and deliver the highest quality programmatic inventory day in and day out. 

“CTV is definitely still a viable channel for many of our clients. There are safety measures in place to prevent fraud — we should never shy away from a channel altogether, but rather figure out what we can do to mitigate these issues,” True Media Senior Digital Media Strategist Catherine Westhoff stated.

What to Expect with Social Media and the Election Year

There is no denying there is a debate going on about how social media platforms should address political advertisements this coming election year. 

Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg rallied behind the belief that social media platforms should be spaces that encourage free speech. With that he announced that Facebook will be posting all political ads, without fact checking, so that people can debate and come to their own conclusions after viewing. 

“As a principle, in a democracy, I believe people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.” Zuckerberg stated in his speech. 

Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, took to twitter to claim his stance on the topic by announcing that Twitter will stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. In a series of tweets, Dorsey elaborates on this main idea: A political message reach should be earned and not bought. 

“A final note. This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.” Dorsey tweeted. 

Twitter’s new policy will be enforced by November 22, 2019, with the exception of ads in support of voter registration. So far, Facebook is standing firm in its stance.

This debate can provide some insight into what to expect in placing your ads during the election year, and should be taken into consideration when planning your advertisements. If Facebook sticks with their decision, it could potentially mean Twitter will be a more ideal platform to place your ads during a time when ads easily get lost in the clutter.


Have you started planning for the election year?


Less Media Planning, More Audience Planning

Marketers have a tendency to really zoom in on specific generations and demographics, and their media tactics are a reflection of that. Some reports will argue that other generations, namely Baby Boomers, shouldn’t be left out of a marketer’s target audience just yet based on the simple fact that Boomers still have a lot of money. The argument is proven true by Bureau of Labor Statistics data that shows the Boomer’s yearly household income is above average for total households ($80,086 vs $78, 635) and much higher than that of millennials ($67,076). While those numbers are significant and you may want to jump into adding Boomers back to your target audience, we’re here to tell you it just isn’t that simple.

Simply put: Targeting based on demographics alone won’t produce the best results. Marketers should be planning for their specific audience with each and every campaign.

“Most digital advertising is highly targetable, and we can target any audience from a demographic perspective quite easily,” says Catherine Westhoff, True Media Senior Digital Media Strategist. “However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is effective — there are a lot of other factors at play. The definition of success is different not just from client to client, but from campaign to campaign.”

Your audience could be different from campaign to campaign, and targeting based on demographics alone should be done as little as possible, especially for digital. There are other factors that can narrow down your audience even further, such as income, education, whether or not your audience would have a family or children, and specific interests or hobbies. All of these details are determining factors in calculating what media is going to be effective. For example, radio and TV might have the highest index when just looking at Baby Boomers, but digital channels might be highest when you add in the other factors.

So what is the difference between media planning and audience planning? In Audience planning… 

  • Populations are defined by distinct commercial activities, not by demographic proxies.
  • Media consumption is just one “signal” that lives alongside other signals such as geolocation, observable behaviors, search queries, mood, etc. All of this gets rolled up, look-alike modeled and matched against the ability to purchase ad impressions against those audiences exclusively.
  • There is no untargeted spill. You are either in the addressable audience pool or not exposed.
  • Content is optimized for stages in the user journey, not the contextual environment.
  • Creative wear out is replaced with custom sequencing.

The media industry as a whole is really just starting to shift to the mindset of audience planning. But in order to have the best outcomes from one campaign to another, it is imperative to begin planning media through the lens of an audience planner.

Reaching an Almost Unreachable Audience

While it isn’t a social media platform, Twitch has a lot of potential for advertisements that reach a huge (and growing) population. StreamElements reports that Twitch is the top live streaming platform with 2.7 billion hours of live content viewed in the last three months, compared with 735 million hours on YouTube and close to 200 million hours on Facebook Gaming. 

Those numbers alone speak to the enormous impact advertising through Twitch could have. But there’s more… 

Twitch recently launched a new marketing campaign along with rebranding in its colors, logos, and tagline, “You already belong here,” in the hopes of attracting more than just gamers to their platform. The rebranding comes after multiple years of efforts to broaden its scope of audience. 

Last year, the platform introduced 10 sections with specific themes — such as crafting, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), and outdoors for everyday streaming in real time. They also launched an interactive karaoke-style game, Twitch Sings, through a competition called Stream Star in which the winner is promised $20,000 and a record deal. 

One feature that is really insightful about how the future of how a new generation will consume sporting events — and how reaching that audience will evolve — is the fact that  Twitch offers to stream games. Twitch has agreements with the NBA and NFL, Wrestling and Women’s Hockey that allows users to stream games while also being able to commentate in real time with other streamers.

With Twitch’s audience expanding, companies are starting to insert ads into the streams and sponsored channels. Wendy’s and Hershey’s are two companies who have jumped at this opportunity to reach a sometimes unreachable audience. Because Twitch naturally attracts a tech savvy crowd, most of them are running ad blockers — which makes having a chance to reach them even more desirable for advertisers. It should also be noted that last year the company stopped offering an advertisement-free option for Amazon Prime subscribers. 

There are currently three monetization offerings on Twitch:

  1. Ads: Partners get an undisclosed cut of ad revenues from ads that play on their channel. 
  2. Virtual goods: Viewers can purchase “Bits” to help show support for their favorite Twitch partner. Viewers can use their Bits in varying amounts to get animated emoticons in chats, participate in subscriber-only chat rooms and get acknowledgement from a partner; partners get 1 cent per Bit used to support them.
  3. Subscriptions: Partners can earn revenues from subscriptions to their channel. Subscriptions range in price from $4.99 to $24.99 per month.

Location-Based Digital Marketing Strategies

As of 2017, $17.1 billion dollars of all digital advertisements use location-based targeting and this is expected to increase to $38.1 billion through 2020. Geographic targeting is a valuable media strategy for organizations seeking to find new and returning customers. Improvements in behavioral targeting will allow advertisers to target ads to users most likely to make a purchase following a pattern or history of taking an action.


Beyond targeting a specific demographic area, city or zip code, there are several strategies that can be used to acquire new customers. For example, a Mexican quick-serve restaurant saw a 67% lift in sales by targeting the previous customers and surrounding areas of its direct competitors and casual Mexican restaurants in the demographic area. Finding and conquering points of interest to consumers is a powerful tactic that will generate results for most businesses.


The triangulation of your location-based data can make or break a location-based marketing campaign. The most accurate geo-targeting experiences are available using mobile-apps from publishers and social media companies such as Turner Media, ESPN, Facebook, Twitter, and others. Check out this list of the five most accurate location-based marketing channels:


  1. Mobile Apps – Data maps back to a smartphone’s mobile advertising ID (MAID)
  2. Social Media – Users opt-in and voluntarily share their location information to the service
  3. Mobile Web – Requires working with a data management partner to do cross-device matching
  4. Desktop – You can match a user who has signed into a mobile application
  5. CTV / Direct Mail –  Targeting users who have been exposed to a mobile campaign to their Smart tvs or direct mail


The future of location-based targeting is bullish. Enterprises who develop location-based acquisition strategies will have the upper hand as consumers spend more time on their mobile devices. Americans spend 133 minute in mobile apps every day. Translating the real-time and historical location data into actionable insights will become a cornerstone of digital media campaigns. If your business is struggling with advanced targeting, True Media can help you execute efficient location based marketing campaigns that will grow your business.