Canadian Online Advertisers Spend Most on Digital Display Ads

Search engine and retail marketplace advertising are common ways for Canadian businesses to reach online audiences, currently accounting for 44.5 percent of digital advertising budgets. However, search advertising growth has slowed, as display advertising on social media and websites takes a bigger slice of the pie (54.2 percent).

Digital display advertising usually refers to banner ads, rich media and video. You’ll see it most often on websites and social media, either through direct sponsorship or some form of affiliate marketing. Display advertising has actually overtaken paid search engine advertising as the top online marketing investment in Canada.

Emarketer predicts search engine and retail marketplace advertising in Canada will grow 9.3 percent this year and more than double in 2023, before settling at 14.3 percent growth in 2024. Helping these formats keep up will be the popularity of online marketplaces in Canada (sparked by pandemic buying), and “near me” mobile searches. In fact, mobile search will grab 76 percent of search budgets in 2022, as they use location data to lure people on the go. It’s a sound strategy, considering 86.5 percent of Canadians access the internet with a mobile phone.

The most popular search engine in Canada is Google by a mile (91%), followed by Microsoft’s Bing. The cost of search engine ads can be too high for Canadian small businesses, especially in the testing phase. Many test on social media first, then take their most successful ads into Google to maximize ROI.

How much is spent on digital marketing in Canada? In 2022, over $12 billion will be spent in Canada on display, search and online classified advertising. By 2025, that number will be over $16 billion!

That investment is justifiable, based on the fact that over 36 million Canadians are online and 84 percent of them shop online. Each of them spend an average of almost 7 hours online every single day.

Canadian digital ad spend
Source: Digital Ad Spending in Canada by Format via

A Global Movement

Marketers around the world have embraced digital marketing and are fully confident in its effectiveness.

Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising Survey found online marketers are “extremely” or “very” confident in the following paid digital marketing channels:

  1. Social media (64%)
  2. Search (58%)
  3. Online/mobile (58%)
  4. Video online/mobile (58%)
  5. Email (51%)
  6. Connected TV (49%)
  7. Streaming audio (48%)
  8. Native advertising (47%)
  9. Podcasts (44%)

I’ve found the same level of confidence in these methods from Canadian online marketers, with the exception of connected TV and streaming audio. Neither of these formats are popular in Canada just yet, but the larger advertisers are exploring the possibilities.

Where can I find Canadians online?

You can tell a lot about a segment by where they go online. Advertising is expensive on these top sites, but you can look for similar sites that are tailored to your specific audience.

According to SEMRush, the following websites are the most popular in Canada in 2022:

What’s Hot in Digital Marketing in Canada?

The two hottest opportunities in online marketing in Canada are:

Affiliate marketing: Advertise on countless websites and only pay when it works. Further information: How to Start an Affiliate Program for a Canadian Business.

Influencer marketing: There are influencers for every budget and they can have a significant impact on sales. Check out the Top 10 Reasons 86% of Marketers Work with Influencers.

Which online marketing formats have worked best for your Canadian business? Please share your tips & questions in the comments below, or join us in the Online Business Canada Facebook group.


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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on, and, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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