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How Can Canadian Brands Ease Immigrants’ Lives in Canada?



Publicis Media’s chief strategy and data officer David Rusli tells LBB’s Josh Neufeldt why 50% of Canada’s newcomers want to leave, and how advertisers can help

How Can Canadian Brands Ease Immigrants’ Lives in Canada?

It’s estimated that for the next three years, Canada will see an annual arrival of 400,000 new immigrants. Coming with the hope of achieving a better life within the world’s second largest country, optimistically, one might hope to learn that these newcomers are happy with their choice. However, the truth is, perhaps, a tad more shocking. According to a report released in August by Publicis Media and the Angus Reid Institute, half of Canada’s newcomers are planning on leaving the country, or at the very least, feel uncertain about their future on Canadian soil. 

The report was informed by the ‘I Am Canada’ survey, which collected responses from more than 500 new arrivals in Canada. One of the biggest takeaways was that there is often a gap between newcomers’ expectations and their on-the-ground reality. Although it has a reputation as a land of opportunity - safe and filled with friendly people - and despite 80% of those surveyed reporting they were able to quickly settle into new employment, when it came to finance and accessibility, half the respondents found the overall cost of living to be higher than expected, with 50% also saying that buying a home was harder than they expected. 

It’s for this reason that Publicis is taking the data insights from the ‘I Am Canada’ study, seeking to help furnish connections between Canadian brands and companies that want to help immigrants settle in and find a sense of home. “At Publicis Media, we are working to build bridges between diverse communities and brands. People want to see and feel that they belong in Canada, and media representation is a critical component of their experience,” said chief strategy and data officer David Rusli in a press release. “We still have a long way to go to improve representation for newcomers in movies, TV shows, and advertisements, as 55% of respondents consider it among the top two important things a brand can do to connect with them.” 

LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with David to learn more. 

LBB> How did the idea of the ‘I Am Canada’ study come about? And was there specific data you were hoping to find?

David> There are about 400,000 people who come to Canada every year, and so the landscape of our population is ever-changing. We recognise the importance of this sector of newcomers - given their size and significant contribution to our economy and culture. As such, we wanted to dig deeper into the new face of our country – thus, the title of this study, ‘I Am Canada’.

Another reason for the study is that we want to equip ourselves with data and insights to help our clients understand the psyche of newcomers, allowing for the ability to communicate with them more effectively. We aimed to substantiate all these common anecdotes of their stories that we have heard – their journey, motivations, expectations, etc. - with real data. This study gives us the backbone for insights through data.

LBB> How did you go about executing the research? 

David> Publicis Media is an organisation that embraces diversity. A big percentage of our staff are immigrants and/or newcomers. Through our interaction with them, we gained visibility to their stories – their hardships, challenges and successes, but we didn’t have data to back these up.

As such, we partnered with Angus Reid, a leading Canadian research firm, to execute this study. We surveyed 500 newcomers with representation across ethnicities, regions of origin, and gender orientation. We did both quantitative and qualitative [research] to ensure that we have a holistic picture.

From Publicis Media’s side, several teams collaborated to complete this study. ‘Research and Insights’ teamed together with strategists and communications planners within our DEI Centre of Excellence, providing expertise in the development of the questionnaire, as well as in the analysis of results. This study demonstrates our desire to lead with insights so we can better help our clients achieve their goals to become more inclusive.

LBB> What were the most interesting things you learned from the study?

David> As expected, all of the respondents desired to have a better life. But not all journeys are the same. We saw two streams of motivations for coming to Canada. From one side, we saw that it was driven out of a basic need for survival – safety from conflict and war, and/or the freedom to live without fear of being harmed in the streets. 40% of respondents said safety was their top motivator for coming to Canada. There was also a need for being respected as a human being, regardless of gender orientation. In this vein of basic human needs, some of them wanted to flee from discrimination against their identity in their home country.

From another side, we saw a need to pursue opportunities in education and employment. 48% of respondents said they were motivated to move to Canada because of job opportunities available. A third of them also said education was among their top reasons. It was also interesting to learn that a third of them had to downgrade their jobs just to get their foot in the door - something which is more prevalent among those who come from Asia and the Middle East. This insight corroborates with the reality we know newcomers face. Some international education and professional credentials are not recognised here in Canada, which leaves them with survival jobs to get by. This shows us that systemic bias still exists within organisations in this country - harming not only newcomers, but diminishing the possibility of utilising valuable talent in the workforce.

LBB> What were the most surprising takeaways? Was there anything that caught you off guard?

David> The startling statistic was that almost 50% of those who are new to Canada are thinking of, or planning on, leaving. That decision is a difficult one, as the newcomers have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources (financially and emotionally) just to get here. These decisions are driven by macro economic factors, such as not being able to afford to retire here because all their savings have been drained, not finding employment that is commensurate with their professional experience, the loneliness of being away from home, and dealing with harsh weather. These reasons may not be significant for some of us, but when compounded together, survival becomes tough for these newcomers.

This begs the question of how we - both as human beings and corporate institutions - can help newcomers ease into our society. How do we help them become less lonely? How do we help them integrate into our workforce, without discrimination? How do we help them adopt our unique culture?

LBB> One key piece of data highlighted by the study was that newcomers often struggle with the high cost of living in Canada. Is there anything Canadian brands can do to help in this area and improve quality of life for Canadian newcomers?

David> Yes! We think revisiting the transferrable education will make a big difference, especially as we know that 30% of the newcomers had to downgrade their jobs in order to make money immediately. This would help newcomers with finding a better place to live, as well as affording the common living expenses.

On top of that, there is a massive opportunity for brands and companies to connect with newcomers meaningfully. This was made evident by the fact that 55% of the study’s respondents considered representation in TV shows, music, and advertisements as some of the best ways to connect with them. Additionally, another 55% of newcomers said that they appreciate brands who use proper representation, and 38% expressed their appreciation for communications delivered in their native languages. 

LBB> How can brands be used to facilitate integration, and how can they improve at this in the future?

David> Brands need to recognise the changing landscape of Canadian society, and the fact that it is driven by this huge influx of people from other countries. It’s important to not only recognise them as a growth opportunity for the business, but to also acknowledge the responsibility of helping to keep them here. We need to understand what they need to survive (emotionally, physically, financially), what they expect from brands to gain that much coveted trust, and what we need to do to show we care for them.

We also learned from this study that there are push and pull dynamics happening among newcomers. They desire to adopt into their new culture to feel a sense of belonging, but there is also a significant need to keep their connections back home. They want to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, for example, but they also appreciate when brands recognise the importance of their own cultural events/festivals - helping them celebrate uniquely while here in a new land. Seeing products they are familiar with from back home, on shelves here, can strike a chord with them. Music and food bring nostalgia, so connecting with them through these universal languages for the soul is powerful. Newcomers also are open to brands who attempt to use their native language when speaking to them. We may argue that most of them understand English, but speaking to them in their language demonstrates a genuine interest and care.

At Publicis Media Canada, we have done some work around questions we need to askourselves as communications professionals, to ensure we hold ourselves and our partners accountable in our continuous quest to become more inclusive. We continuously dialogue with our vendors to ask how they are doing when it comes to achieving representation and inclusivity within their organisations. We then ask our clients to help support these organisations who are intentionally making strides in more fiscally responsible approach. We also encourage our clients to look inward and ask the difficult questions to assess where they stand and where they want to be in their journey towards inclusiveness. We then begin to find areas where we can improve and make the most impact.

LBB> You mentioned that Publicis Media has laid the groundwork to help brands become a conduit of truly inclusive communications. Can you tell us more about that?

David> As an organisation, we are continuously examining ourselves to ensure we achieve representation in every aspect of our business – from talent acquisition, retention and culture-building, to the services we provide our clients.

From a product perspective, we built a team devoted to pursuing DEI in communications, from planning to execution. We embarked on building a communications and measurement framework/playbook for our clients to incorporate DEI in their brands’ ecosystems, and we intend to continuously improve on this.

We are also excited to see that more and more of our clients have expressed interest to tap into these resources, and we are committed to partnering with them in this journey. After all, a journey to a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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Publicis Canada, Fri, 30 Sep 2022 14:47:25 GMT