Why would you run a government ad campaign that is a bust?


It is a total mystery to those who work in the public sector marketing field why the government insists on running an ad campaign that has reach its “best before date” and clearly is not working. Why would you continually invest in a communications endeavour that is hurting your brand? I simply don’t get it.

The feds says its Economic Action Plan “is working for Canadians,” but costly ads reminding voters of that aren’t working at all – at least not the way they are supposed to. So why keep doing it?


As the Globe points out Canadians are not responding to the Conservative government’s “action plan” ads, and the reason seems clear: Intended to illuminate programs and services, they are overly vague and have felt too much like partisan self-promotion.

I am not sure exactly who is involved in developing this campaign but I certainly hope it is not one of my former marketing students. Clearly these ads need to more targeted and provide some useful information.

A government-sponsored poll obtained by The Canadian Press asked 2,003 adult Canadians about ads that ran for months around the 2013 federal budget, ostensibly to encourage citizens to learn about programs and services. All of three survey respondents had visited the promotional action-plan website, as the ad encourages, and not one called the featured 1-800-O-Canada hotline. Of those who even remembered seeing the ads, only six per cent did anything as a result – and what nine of the respondents did was complain. Source

Yikes, with these types of results you would think some wisdom would prevail but alas this campaign keeps motoring along and no one has pulled the plug. Amazing!

Based on my many years of running government advertising campaigns, self-promotion by government is not a new phenomenon. But I cannot ever remember government taking it to this extreme.

The Economic Action plan ads which have cost at least $113-million since 2009 and have become fixtures on television – are often replete with broad allusions to “better infrastructure to make us more competitive,” or “more efficient government to keep taxes low.” No wonder most people tune them out.

In addition even if people like the ads initially, which would be surprising, there is a “wear out” factor with advertising and these ads are completely “worn out”.

Oh and one more thing , I cannot remember in my over 30 years of running government ad campaigns, running ads for programs which are in the planning stages and are not available to the public. Promoting the new Canada Jobs Grant which hinges on negotiations with the provinces, who are clearly not enamoured with this program, is clearly offside.

Are there no programs which are presently available to the public worth promoting?

I must say I am often baffled by decisions made by government on public sector marketing as regular readers to my blog know, but I must say of all the campaigns I have witnessed in my 35 years of public sector marketing this one takes the cake for incompetence.

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