Let’s get the right bill for everyone.

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Let’s get the right bill for everyone.

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The MindShare team joined us in Ottawa to meet with Health Canada on Bill S-228. Laura Donaldson, Director Marketing Science, weighs in on key takeaways and implications for marketers and our media industry.

CMDC: What is the overall key takeaway from the Nov 5th Health Canada meeting?

Laura: We all have incentives to find the right solution to decrease or eliminate child obesity. While Quebec has lived and breathed a model that has worked well in their market, the group feels we need a similar approach for all of Canada. We need to move to solutions and not just distract ourselves with definitions. Advertising can only and should only be a single element of that entire discussion. We need all parties to be in the same room to discuss the details of the proposed Bill S-228. We must gain clarity on the details and have a uniformed approach to be capable of proposing a lasting solution. We can take funds out of media or we can invest into more effective messaging to educate youth, and parents, on eating habits and fitness levels. We need to discuss how we solve the issues together in a more considered and comprehensive approach.

CMDC: What are the three areas of impact or implications on the media industry of the proposed Bill S-228?

Laura: The current structure of the proposed Bill S-228 presents significant implications to the media industry. These can directly affect advertisers, agencies, and media owners. Audience verification, a measurement solution, and the impact to the economy are major concerns in the framing of the legislation. At this point, Bill S-228 is too vague on how the legislation will be measured to predict the full economic impact. It would be naïve at best to not consider this. Canadian media owners, specifically broadcasters, have already been challenged to maintain advertising dollars during the decline of audience viewing.

Digital media owners must also also find ways to substantiate the demographics of their audiences. Consider this likely scenario: a child might grab mom’s or dad’s iPad or laptop, and see an ad. What digital media owner would be able to such an impression? Legislation to prevent even the most unlikely occurrences would be cumbersome and unfairly punitive. There are currently two elements of Bill S-228 that are of utmost importance to our industry. The first is the definition of healthy and unhealthy food. The second is the audience threshold for which the ban would be measured against. The first has major implications for brands in the definition of what Health Canada specifically has deemed healthy. Agencies and media owners will have more pressure to adhere to these definitions when advertising for their clients. This was discussed and continues to have evolving definitions.

For our industry, the more significant component is the audience threshold – this will be how advertisers are measured against the media owner’s audience. This threshold would demand the elimination of any ads shown on a TV station and digital property with 15% or more of the audience under the age of 13. In its current state, Bill S-228 has not considered the measurement gaps in the Canadian market – and the need to verify the audience that the ad to whom the ad is displayed.

Bill S-228 currently lacks the prescriptive details necessary to have an actionable measurement and monitoring solution. There are currently no verification metrics in place in Canada to determine what audience is under 13 years of age. The current proposal has a crucial impact on Canadian media owners and publishers, without addressing the impact that this will have to the international giants. How will Product Placement be monitored with the purchase of International programs to Canadian broadcasters? Or through OTT services, such as Netflix? How will we ensure that an 11-year-old girl did not lie on her Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram accounts to report that she was 13? What happens when an 8-year-old walks in on mom’s reality TV show time and ends up watching the remainder of the episode? Given the countless scenarios, it is essential for Health Canada to be precise and prescriptive in Bill S-228 to ensure a standardized measurement approach.

CMDC: What is the one area that needs to be re-imagined?

Laura: We must return to the issue at hand and work together as an industry to solve the concerns of Health Canada. There is no argument here. There is commitment from all parties to examine the problem from another legitimate perspective. We must address the obesity epidemic in Canada. And we must so do without inflicting irreparable harm to our media and advertising industry by removing millions of dollars and ending jobs. Instead of imploding an industry and spending millions policing violations we could do better. We could be collectively and considerately invest in better messages to youth. To help educate and coach them on better eating and fitness habits that would serve every Canadian now and tomorrow.

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