thinkTV (TVB)

On August 21, 1961, a new media marketing organization: TVB OF CANADA, INC. was founded by Ralph Snelgrove, William Mcgregor, Jean Pouliot, Paul Mulvihill, Arthur Harrison, Ross McCreath, Andrew McDermott, Donald Lawrie, William Byles and Gordon Ferris. Most of the founders were successful radio pioneers and they soon became the first collective sales and marketing team for the nine-year old Canadian television industry (Canadian television was launched in September 1952).

The first advertisement on commercial television was possibly a sponsor’s name applied to a test pattern, but that soon evolved into today’s dynamic and huge industry: hundreds of millions of hours-tuned each week and billions of dollars spent on commercial placements from 5-second dot spots to long form infomercials and closed captioning.

The following is an overview of how TVB participated in that growth.

1952-1961: Background

September 6, 1952: the launch of Canadian television (CBC) CBMF-TV Montreal, followed by CBLT-TV Toronto two days later.

October 11, 1952: Hockey Night in Canada debut on CBC with Imperial Oil as sponsor.

Ford, Campbell Soup, Westinghouse, Imperial Tobacco and Salada Tea were among the advertiser pioneers.

1953 saw four more stations, CBOT-TV Ottawa followed by the first Private stations CKSO-TV Sudbury and CFPL-TV London, followed by CBUT-TV Vancouver.

In 1954 18 stations – 15 private and 3 CBC.

8 New stations took to the air in 1955, all privately owned except one CBC.

1956 saw four more private TV stations.

February 1957: International Surveys reported average hours-tuned at 4.3 hours per day.

In 1958 four more private stations came on the air for a total of 8 CBC and 38 private stations. Talk of second stations in the larger cities began.

October 1, 1961: Canadian Television Network launched as the second national network (renamed CTV in 1962).

The census reported that 82.5% of homes had a television set, more than had flush toilets.

1961-1967: Early Years

September 6, 1952: the launch of Canadian television (CBC) CBMF-TV Montreal, followed by CBLT-TV Toronto two days later.

October 11, 1952: Hockey Night in Canada debut on CBC with Imperial Oil as sponsor.

Ford, Campbell Soup, Westinghouse, Imperial Tobacco and Salada Tea were among the advertiser pioneers.

1953 saw four more stations, CBOT-TV Ottawa followed by the first Private stations CKSO-TV Sudbury and CFPL-TV London, followed by CBUT-TV Vancouver.

In 1954 18 stations – 15 private and 3 CBC.

8 New stations took to the air in 1955, all privately owned except one CBC.

1956 saw four more private TV stations.

February 1957: International Surveys reported average hours-tuned at 4.3 hours per day.

In 1958 four more private stations came on the air for a total of 8 CBC and 38 private stations. Talk of second stations in the larger cities began.

October 1, 1961: Canadian Television Network launched as the second national network (renamed CTV in 1962).

The census reported that 82.5% of homes had a television set, more than had flush toilets.

1961-1967: Early Years

Armed with Tvb USA’s agreement to provide material support, TVB Canada was established. For the first six years, the TVB Board was larger than the staff and the senior staff person was titled “executive vice-president” (William Seth in 1962, then E.P. Lawless in 1963). The title “president” was held by a succession of Board members (Fred Lynds, Jean Pouliot, Ralph Snelgrove). Sam Harrison was contracted as Treasurer continuing as auditor into the late 1990’s.

Per the 1961 letters patent, the four primary objectives of TVB were:

  • to foster the use of television as an advertising medium on the local and national level and to assist advertisers and the members of the Corporation in deriving the most effective results there from;
  • to undertake and conduct continuing research into all aspects of marketing, sales promotion and advertising as related to the varied requirements of the French and English speaking elements within Canada;
  • to foster the business and business interests of the members of the Corporation and growth and development of the national economy;
  • to promote a broader and more friendly interaction among its members

The launch of TVB fostered an incredible hunger for ideas and insights. TVB had over 1700 attendees for a 1963 workshop and presentation of “The Heartbeat” in Montreal and Toronto. They established a Sales Advisory Committee (chaired by Al Bruner), developed the TV Basics booklet, worked with the predecessors of the Radio Marketing Bureau (RMB) and the Broadcast Executives Society on a Commercial Festival Awards event, determined the veracity of summer TV advertising, and attacked the local car dealer penchant for newspaper with a sales booklet.

There were numerous presentations to industry groups and individual marketers and their agencies. (Shell, Carlings, O’Keefe and Colgate are all mentioned in the minutes book.) Both Canadian companies and Canada-based subsidiaries of US companies were looking for information about television advertising opportunities.

In 1962/63, the first year of reported billings, TV notched $70 million (20% share of total measured advertising spending). While ahead of radio, television’s main target would be newspapers (both national and local) for many years to come.

In addition to the founders noted above, the board lists included names that still resonate today: Bruce Alloway, Henry Audet, Spence Caldwell, Keith Campbell, Gordon Carter, Stu Griffiths, Gordon Keeble, John Malloy, Ray Peters and Orville Shugg.

In 1964, Arnold Acton was hired as Research Manager. In 1965, there was a “Report on Color” from TvB-USA and a board discussion about the spelling of colour – color won. CHCH Hamilton hosted a huge luncheon to introduce “color television” to Canada.

1966 saw TVB member fees move from a quarter-hour rate base to a minute rate base, development of a TVB Library, a presentation promoting the value of a mix of day and prime, the BESSIES (an awards show for Canadian English-language television commercials, primarily for agency-produced spots), and a presentation entitled “FOCUS”, addressed to department stores.

In the fall of 1967, Robert Swayze was appointed TVB’s legal counsel (a position he still holds) to handle the transition from Executive Vice-President E.P. Lawless to Ross Downey as President. Al Bruner was named to the new position of “Chairman” of the Board.

TVB reported total Television billings of $111 million, still less than half that of newspapers.


Ross Downey was named the first staff president of TVB.

The following six years saw selective station membership grow to 35 (65% of the private stations in 1969), the development of a presentation (Decision Vision) intended to increase spot sales, sales training, a library of running footage (specifically for auto spots, allowing local retail creative departments to pitch local car dealers with approved footage), the building of the retail commercials section of the TVB Library, and the development of an extensive file of case histories. Fees were still based on published station rate cards, and in 1970, TVB opted for its current broadcast fiscal year.

1970 saw the first Retail Comp for station-produced retail advertisers where consumers and not industry creatives judged the work. (This was the only creative competition in North America with this format).

The same year, the Canadian Media Directors Council (CMDC) launched their MEDIA DIGEST, with numerous pages of data supplied by TVB. Set penetration was 96% of homes, colour 12% and cable 13%. The prime 60-second spot rate on CBC was $3430 for time & lines, plus programme costs. On CTV the rate was $3150 for a prime :60, all costs included. The costs were drawn from published rate cards.

In 1971, the federal government made advertising on US border stations an after-tax expense for Canadian advertisers. This was good news for Canadian stations but a major loss for the US stations in smaller markets bordering larger Canadian markets (Bellingham, Buffalo and Burlington, for example). TVB staff were busy explaining the tax impact to agencies and advertisers, and not coincidentally, the year-over-year industry TV billings percentage growth doubled and tripled in the following two years (from about 6% to over 19% per year), starting a run of 11 consecutive years of double-digit revenue growth.

This growth occurred in spite of the cessation of cigarette advertising on television (the last spot, for Benson and Hedges Mark Ten, ran at 11:59 p.m. December 31, 1971 on CTV). TVB had worked with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA) and the Institute of Canadian Advertising (the agencies’ association at the time, ICA) to change the federal government decision, to no avail. Ultimately, the underlying strength of the TV marketplace overcame the loss of this category.

Board members over this period included Norm Bonnell, Don Brinton, Ted Chapman, Fernand Corbeil, Bob Quinn, Ron Skinner, Cliff Wingrove and John Wood.

At the end of Downey’s presidency, total television billings nudged $200 million, well above the reported $160 million for radio but still only about half that of newspapers.


Len Moore became president in January 1974.

Over the next nine years, TVB leveraged a boom in advertising spending, which would triple from $845 million in 1973 to $2666 million in 1982.

Television billings quadrupled (from $200 to $777 million,) with double-digit increases every year and share growth from 23% to 29% of total reported advertising revenues.

TVB took aim at big retailers, with Bill Metcalfe the driving force behind selling Canadian Tire and Sears on the idea of TV advertising (both had huge in-house newspaper departments with photographers, graphic artists and copywriters dedicated to the production of weekly ads). Paul Ryan recalls as many as 30 meetings over many years to make this happen. However, when it did, “it was like the dam broke” as other nationals and regional chains added television to their plans.

Paul Ryan and Bill Metcalfe made effective use of The Davey Report on the concentration of media in Canada (1970 Report of the Senate Committee on the Mass Media, chaired by Keith Davey), compiling a “Selling with Facts” presentation.

The Sales Committee was restructured to add a Retail Sales Advisory Committee in 1979, recognizing the emerging importance of national and local retail advertisers. Stations’ Sales Managers set aside competitive concerns to work together on industry goals.

Over three years there were tests of summer advertising, using market research firms to quantify the results, leading to summer revenue growth.

Global Television was added to the membership roster.

Board members over this period included Bob Alexander, Ken Boyce, Gary Buss, Bruce Cowie, Bob Elsden, Dick Genin, Lee Hambleton, Ian Hall, Rodger Hone, Don Smith, Rudy Stefanik and Peter Viner.

TV grew to two-thirds the billings of newspapers, and for the first time total broadcast was higher than newspapers.


Cam Fellman joined TVB as President in late 1983, and to-date is the longest-serving president in TVB’s history.

This period was marked by initiatives that continued to position television as the number one communications tool for every client.

The BESSIES was repositioned as the premier awards event, marketing television to agency creative directors and their clients. TVB participated as a founding board member of the CASSIES, an award show that recognized the effective use of advertising to build business (Canadian Advertising Success Stories).

An annual Sales Advisory Conference (SAC) was launched in Ottawa in 1985, moving around Canada in subsequent years: Edmonton in 1986 and 1992, Halifax 1987 and 1994, Banff 1988, Quebec City 1989 and 1995, Vancouver 1990, Deerhurst 1991, and Victoria 1993. The TVB members embraced these annual conferences, even presenting Dennis Watson with a gift at SAC 89 to nark his fifth successful conference.

The Reach, Time Spent & Attitudes study (RTS&A: comparing radio, television, newspapers and magazines) was launched in 1985, and repeated in 1990 and 1995. The On-Line Consultant (OLC) service was funded in partnership with TvB-US (OLC was a product of the Media Center in NYC, run by a former TvB employee, providing category insights to TV sales representatives).

The first Time Sales Survey (TSS) was done in 1988 by McCay Duff, capturing and tracking sales across members and non-members nationally and locally.

McCay Duff was then contracted to collect station sales revenues for TVB member fee determinations in 1990, a role they still have. This marked a significant move from rate cards to sales revenue as the basis for member fees.

Not all suggested initiatives came to fruition. Revenue management was discussed at SAC conferences, but never became widespread until subsequent consolidation and revenue pressures mounted. The concept of single-source audience measurement across the major media was compelling, but before its time. The STAR project (Strategic Audience Research: a partnership with RMB and the Canadian Newspaper Association’s NADBANK) was launched in late 1995 and terminated in early 1997.

And EDI (electronic data interchange: automate the buy-sell-bill-pay process with the objective of minimizing clerical re-inputs and errors) always seemed to be the next big idea. The TVB Board reviewed a presentation on EDI in 1992/93 with no conclusion. EDI languished until 2005.

Total television billings broke the billion dollar mark in 1985 and grew every year but one – 1993 represented the first measured decrease in billings since the records began in 1963. The total advertising industry stalled in the 1991-1994 period, but TV gained share in each of these years. In 1995 TV billings were virtually tied with newspapers.

Board members over this period included Frank Babich, Ron Bremner, Terry Coles, Bill Cox, Drew Craig, Ted Delaney, Peter Kretz, George Lund, James Macdonald, Dave Mintz, Paul Robertson, Peter Sisam, Jay Switzer, Robert Trempe and Ron Waters.

Membership grew in the late 1980s to almost 90% participation. Then consolidation started and pressures mounted to cut station costs, resulting in membership declines.


Following the departure of Cam Fellman in 1995 the Board developed a new strategic plan and governance guidelines, and reviewed TVB’s structure. Jim Patterson became president in early 1997.

The initial tasks were the re-establishment of the SAC conferences (the last one had been in Quebec City in 1995) and new member recruitment. The strategic plan mandated a shift from direct client contact by TVB to empowering station sales representatives with increased category and client insights.

This period was one of re-building membership, growing TVB’s balance sheet, and expanding member services.

The CTV group of stations was the first to re-join TVB, in the summer of 1997, and a SAC was held in early 1998 in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

TVB’s first web site,, was launched in 1997, followed by the introduction of AdEdge papers and statistical reports accessible by members via the web site. The shift from paper files and fax machines to the internet turned member servicing to an “always on” mode. Staffing transitioned from pure researchers to include business writers who translated research facts and other industry news from around the world into user-friendly language.

Web development also allowed for faster and more accurate collection of sales data, with direct input by stations into the database. The previously regional Pacing Report on future bookings was expanded to include networks and all regions of Canada, and merged with the TSS report of historical billings. The accuracy and timeliness of these data led to requests from both Statistics Canada and the CRTC to be included on the distribution list. Participating non-members continued to receive the reports.

The emerging specialties sector was attracted to join TVB, in an effort to ensure that the full television industry had one voice. Specialty TV’s advertising revenues were first recorded in 1985, and reached $100 million in 1994. By 2007, this sector represented 29% of all television advertising (at almost one billion dollars).

In September 2000 Telecaster Committee of Canada Inc. was merged into TVB, at the initiative of TVB members who supported both organizations. Telecaster was formed in 1973 by private broadcasters as a voluntary, self-governing clearance committee for television commercials, infomercials and public service announcements, ensuring that all commercials met government and industry standards before they were sent to station traffic departments. Combining forces with TVB resulted in internal operating efficiencies, the harmonization of member fees and staff benefits, and a larger voice in the industry. The Telecaster submission system was computerized, making it easier for advertisers, agencies and stations to submit commercials and easier for Telecaster to respond in a timely fashion.

Further information on Telecaster can be found at

Retail Comp was formally changed to the Retail Commercial Awards in 2002.

In 2005, to celebrate their 100th anniversary, the ICA compiled a list of the Top Ten English Canadian television commercials from the last five decades. TVB participated extensively in the compilation and judging of the final list.

In 2005/2006 EDI resurfaced with the formation of TASCI (Television Automated Supply Chain Initiative) by a group of member and non-member stations, and the CMDC. TVB provided fee guidance and assistance in enlisting broad station support. Software development was begun in 2006 and suspended in 2009, as industry system vendors built a degree of EDI capability into their existing offerings. As of 2010, the TASCI Board continues to work towards the successful completion of this industry initiative.

TV billings broke the two billion dollar level in 1997 and hit $3 billion in 2005. TV billings surpassed daily newspapers in 2000, however community weekly newspapers joined the list of measured media and showed growth to over one billion by 2006.

The internet also came of age: web advertising revenues were first noted in 1997, at $10 million. Fast growth took the recorded billings to $100 million in 2000, over $500 million in 2005 and approaching $2 billion in 2009.

Board members over this period included Elaine Ali, Michel Carter, René Desmarais, Dwaine Dietrich, Bryan Ellis, Rita Fabian, Nigel Fuller, George Gonzo, Jim Haskins, Ken Johnson, David Kirkwood, Brett Manlove, Guy Meunier, Keith Morrison, Greg Mudry and Jack Tomik.


Since her appointment in 2007, TVB’s current President & CEO, Theresa Treutler, has directed the transformation of TVB’s web site, external communications, and research direction.

Television today extends beyond the traditional screen in people’s homes, and as such, TVB’s mandate was redefined to promote television content (and related advertising opportunities) across all platforms.

To address this new media environment, TVB rolled out a series of new research initiatives to inform the marketing community regarding the effectiveness of television (or video) advertising, and the role each platform was best suited to for communicating advertising messages.

Research fielded in the summer of 2009 and unveiled at the re-launch (absent for more than 10 years) of TV Day on January 28, 2010 was a prime example of TVB’s new focus. In a first ever Canadian study, TVB used neuroscience and biometric measurement to measure how people responded to various forms of advertising. While no other medium came close to the effectiveness of television, not surprisingly, online video advertising (which embodies all of the attributes of traditional TV) came in second. In addition to this biometric research, the day included a head-to-head panel of CEO’s from Canada’s major television companies speaking candidly about their vision of the future of television in Canada.

Since 2007, TVB has also fielded numerous studies which reported how consumers are interacting with new technologies such as PVR’s, and how television advertising and web activities could compliment one another within the purchase decision process.

Within the 2008/2009 year, the global economy experienced one of its worst downturns since the great depression. In response, in order to demonstrate the power of television advertising, TVB launched a unique advertising campaign which aired in Jan/Feb 2010 and was unveiled within a BES luncheon in September 2010. The campaign used broccoli to prove that television drives awareness and sales. Airtime was donated by TVB member stations based on a standard 5-week launch plan. The results were impressive – an 8% increase in sales, and dramatic growth in aided and unaided awareness of 90%/65% respectively.

In November 2009, TVB launched a periodic newsletter, entitled TVByte, that was sent to the advertising agency community. The newsletter’s intent was to inform media practitioners of the most recent information and research available to them on

TVB’s Telecaster clearance process experienced a dramatic evolution. While online submissions had been introduced prior to 2007, Telecaster Services moved to a 100% online/digital platform as of March 2009, including commercial review, and the payment for those clearances that incurred a fee. In addition, all Telecaster guidelines were reviewed and updated, and November 2010 marked the launch of new rating guidelines based on program AGVOT ratings, thereby facilitating relevant pairing of commercial and program content.

In August of 2011, TVB celebrated its 50th anniversary. As it marked the occasion, TVB said that as the television industry continued to change, it expected that TVB’s role, website, resources, and services would evolve accordingly.

Sure enough, on December 9th 2015 The Television Bureau of Canada announced its rebirth as ThinkTV.

The organization said that the new brand identity reflected its ongoing evolution, as well as its vision for the future, to help advertisers and agencies get the best out of the medium that is television. 
“We are excited to announce this new brand as it reflects the re-positioning of the organization in the context of a complicated and complex media landscape”, said president Catherine MacLeod, in the news release.  “Marketing the power of television on all its platforms has always been central to our purpose, and our new brand and logo captures that in a direct and concise way.” Thinktv also welcomed new member Corus Entertainment, new board of director members Gerry Mackrell, EVP, head of sales, Corus Entertainment, and Stuart Garvie, president, Media Sales, Bell Media.

As of 2021, Catherine MacLeod was President and CEO. Laura Baehr was VP of Marketing. Kathy Gardner, was VP of Media Insights, and Rhonda Bagnall, was director of thinktv clearance. Members of the board of directors were: Alan Dark (chairman), Rogers Media; Perry MacDonald (vice-chairman), Bell Media; Donald Lizotte (vice-chairman), CBC/Radio-Canada; Darryl Coburn, Bell Media; Mitch Dent, Blue Ant Media; Patricia Heckmann, Quebecor Media Group; Stewart Johnston, Bell Media; Mary Kreuk, CBC/Radio-Canada; Mark Leslie, Corus Entertainment; Barb McKergow, Corus Entertainment; Greg McLelland, Corus Entertainment; Cal Millar, Channel Zero Inc.; Janice Smith, Rogers Media.