Are in-house ad agencies on the horizon for broadcasters?

As Vice Media makes the move from online giant to Canada’s newest broadcaster, it’s bringing to TV not only the attitude and style that made the company a digital juggernaut, but its ad strategies too.

That includes operating its own ad agency and making ads in the Vice style — the TV equivalent of sponsored content articles or videos.

Advertising money was the reason Vice decided to launch Viceland in the first place, which debuted Monday as part of a $100-million joint venture between Vice and Rogers.

Vice said (subscribers only) at a CRTC hearing last month that it’s hoping to draw more advertising from the likes of car companies and banks with a traditional TV platform than it was able to operating online-only.

“It sounds a bit crass, but absolutely we did it for the money,” Vice’s chief international growth officer David Purdy admitted at the time.

While sponsored content is commonplace on the Internet, it’s less so in TV’s hourly ad blocks. After all, TV broadcasters don’t normally have their own in-house ad agencies.

The ads will be “editorially relevant” to the show they’re accompanying but not “disguised as editorial,” Rogers and Vice executives told the Wire Report in interviews. They’ll be produced by Vice’s marketing and ad agency, Virtue, in the company’s Toronto studio, and be broadcast in addition to traditional 30-second spots.

As broadcast consultant Kelly Lynne Ashton noted, it makes sense Vice would be the company to export ad models from the Internet to television and not traditional broadcasters.

How well will it work? Less than a week into Viceland, that’s still to be determined.

The TV industry already knows it needs to evolve its ad offerings. It’s been a couple of years since Canadian TV first started playing with targeted ads, but as recently as last month Shaw Media president Barbara Williams was saying TV needs to step up that ability.

She said at a conference last month that TV will have to provide better audience data in order to keep up with digital competition, which allows advertisers to understand and target their audience more precisely.

Maybe the model offered by Viceland will see a quicker adoption by Canadian TV than targeted ads did if it turns out to be successful. That still remains to be seen. As Rick Brace, president of Rogers’ media business unit, said in an interview, right now “it’s bit of a wait and see.”

“But I think if 30 per cent of your population is millennials … advertisers will begin to flow,” he added.

And if it turns out the types of ads produced by Virtue for Viceland are a good way to reach that audience — which, after all, we hear all the time is becoming increasingly scarce on linear TV — others are likely to consider giving it a shot.

Canada’s biggest media and telecom companies are already Internet and TV service providers, phone companies, TV and radio broadcasters, magazine publishers, and more.

So why not ad agencies, too?

— Anja Karadeglija is editor of The Wire Report. She can be reached at

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