Canada-ASCJust prior to Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving that is, Truth Central had the opportunity to provide input into a valuable discussion that Canadian marketers are having about the critical issue of data privacy and security. Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), an industry association and self-regulatory body, commissioned us to work alongside MacLaren McCann to study consumer attitudes towards privacy in Canada. To do this, we conducted online research with 1,000 consumers, in both English and French, replicating the Canadian census for age, gender, and province.

We arose bleary-eyed (courtesy of a 2 AM fire evacuation!) on the morning of November 20 and met with our client sponsors, ASC President Linda Nagel and SVP Peter White at the Park Hyatt in Toronto. Fortunately, the enthusiasm displayed by Linda and Peter, the sense of excitement in the room, and the Ontario blueberry pancakes quickly re-energized us.

Laura and I co-presented the Truth About Privacy: Canada and Beyond to a room of 80 attendees, sharing insights about Canadians’ relationship with privacy. Some insights mirrored our global findings. For example, most Canadian consumers are willing to share shopping data online in exchange for benefits, while very few are comfortable sharing financial data. Other findings were new and reflected attitudes unique to Canada, such as the fact that Canadians demand more right to privacy for themselves, but they also grant more right of privacy to public figures than other countries would.

It was gratifying to share such insights with an audience hungry for data to help fuel the privacy discussion. It wasn’t only Canadian marketing professionals in attendance, but also government officials deeply interested in the issue of privacy. The two representatives from the office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada in attendance were enthusiastic to take the results of the study back to Ottawa. The event concluded with a panel discussion on Canada’s new Interest-Based Advertising program held by the ASC team and other Canadian industry bodies.

Later that day we flew to Montreal, where we were treated to a tour of the lovely, very European-feeling city. After an amazing dinner in an Italian restaurant in the cellar of a converted women’s prison, we retired to a restful night with no fire alarms. The next morning, we repeated our presentation for an audience of Québécois marketers and advertisers. Here we were able to highlight some of the nuances of the French-Canadian market, such as increased awareness of the benefits of sharing location-based data in return for deals and discounts. As in Toronto, it was a huge privilege to present to such an eager and engaged audience.

The Canadian supplement to the 2011 Truth About Privacy study not only gave us an opportunity to extend the the privacy discussion to Canada, but was also our first foray into the uncovering of truths among our ‘neighbors to the North.’ As always, both the research and the trip were opportunities for discovery.

Being American (myself) and British (Laura), we felt we knew Canadians on some level, but this was an exciting opportunity to tease out the differences among our countries. For example, while trying to dissect why Canadians would be so reluctant to agree with the statement “Everybody has a right to say what they think, even if violates someone else’s privacy,” I learned that Freedom of Speech is treated differently in Canada than in the United States, as Canadian law is less likely to protect speech that is considered hateful or slanderous.

Perhaps my favorite discovery of differences came over dinner with two colleagues from the MacLaren McCann Truth Central team. Apparently, Toronto’s biggest pest problem is raccoons! The wily animals have outsmarted nearly every attempt to keep them out of Ontario’s garbage cans.

As always, this process of discovery, both big consumer insights and smaller personal learnings, has been truly rewarding. We feel privileged to have had the opportunity to conduct this research and assist the ASC as they lead a very important industry discussion in Canada.