The need for integrated marketing communications in public sector marketing

Here are excerpts from an article I recently wrote for a federal government newsletter called “Within Reach” on the need for Integrated marketing Communications.

The article is entitled “Integrated Marketing Communications: A Holistic Approach to Government Communications”

Over the past few years I have noticed both as a consultant working with government clients and as a professor teaching students who attend our Professional Certificate Programs at Carleton’s Sprott School of Business, that there is an inclination on the part of public sector marketers to separate advertising from other marketing communications tactics. I believe there are a number of reasons for this phenomenon; some are bureaucratic and others can be explained by a lack of knowledge and understanding of marketing communications and advertising.

First, a little history: About twenty years ago, marketing departments created silos for each of the various marketing communications functions; planning and managing them separately with different budgets, views of the target market, goals and objectives. In many cases, there were separate units or divisions within the same organization managing various marketing communications functions.

Then, companies began to change their operations to embrace the concept of integrated marketing communications (IMC) which involved coordinating the various marketing communications elements along with other marketing activities that were communicating with the organization’s target audience(s).

Experts in the field of marketing communications found that IMC serves to emphasize the benefits of harnessing synergy across the promotional tactics in order to build brand equity of products and services. The central tenet of IMC that distinguishes it from conventional advertising is that each medium enhances the contributions of all other media. In other words, the combined impact of multiple elements (e.g., television, print, radio, Internet, direct response, public relations etc.) can be much greater than the sum total of their individual effects.

As IMC became popular, companies set more strategic objectives with their advertising agencies and their own internal functions to ensure better coordination of the use of a variety of marketing communications tools to achieve their goals rather than relying primarily upon mass media advertising.

In the traditional advertising agency world, many responded by acquiring or setting up public relations, sales promotion, direct marketing, and interactive expertise and touting their capability to meet all of their clients’ IMC needs. In addition, companies began looking beyond one-stop advertising agencies to other types of marketing communications specialists to develop and implement various components of their plans. Today it is not unusual for organizations to outsource their requirements to a number of different types of specialized communication agencies.

So why did organizations, including government most recently, move to the practice of IMC? A key reason for this paradigm shift was that marketers recognized the value of strategically integrating the various communication functions rather than having them operate in silos. The move to IMC also reflects an adaptation by marketers to a changing environment, particularly with respect to demographics, psychographics, lifestyles, and the influx of new media opportunities.

Although it can be said there are a number of reasons for the important shift to integrated marketing communications, the following are some of the major catalysts of note for the public sector:

  • By coordinating marketing communication efforts, organizations can avoid duplication, take advantage of synergy across communication tools, and develop more efficient and effective marketing communication programs.
  • The shift of marketing communication dollars from media advertising to other forms of promotion.
  • The movement away from relying on advertising-focused approaches, which emphasize mass media such as network television and national newspapers and magazines, to solve communication problems.
  • The fragmentation of media markets, which has resulted in less emphasis on mass media and more attention to smaller, targeted media alternatives.
  • The rapid growth and development of database marketing which has prompted many marketers to target consumers through direct mail, direct response advertising etc.
  • The growth of the Internet especially digital/on-line marketing, which has changed the very nature of the way organizations communicate and interact with target audiences.
  • Demands for greater accountability from advertising agencies and changes in the way they are compensated which motivated agencies to consider a variety of marketing communications tools and less expensive alternatives to mass media advertising.
  • Movement to social marketing in the public and non-profit sectors, which requires marketers to exploit all marketing media, channels and techniques to achieve specific behavioural goals for a social issue. For more information check out the E-Learning tool at Health Canada or thesocial marketing planning work bookat the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing.

The most successful IMC programs require that an organization find the right combination or “recipe” of promotional vehicles, tools and techniques and coordinate their use. In a public sector organization that has not yet embraced IMC organizationally, it needs to understand that their target audiences do not distinguish between tactics. From their perspective they are receiving a message from the government whether it comes via television, direct mail, the Internet or an exhibit at a major event. Integrated marketing communications calls for a coordinated approach to planning marketing and promotion programs. With IMC, all of an organization’s communications activities should project a consistent, coordinated and unified message to each target market.

So how do you ensure that your communications are consistent and integrated? First, start by developing an integrated communications plan. ( the article describes the key components of the plan) Include all of the marketing communications tactics that you hope to use to reach your audience. This will help you coordinate all of the communications directed at your audience so that they receive a consistent, reinforcing message. There is nothing worse in marketing communications than delivering inconsistent or conflicting messages which tends to happen when you do not use an IMC approach.

If you want a copy of the complete article please contact me at





Fishing where the Fish are… Beer Marketers using social media on Campus

Well you knew it had to happen sooner or later , the beer industry which has spent years trying to reach young Canadians and convince them to drink using traditional media is now using social media giant Facebook to market their products.. Molson’s has launched an interactive campaign for its Molson Canadian Cold Shots product, inviting post-secondary students to submit photos demonstrating their school spirit and party prowess to the Molson Canadian Nation group on Facebook. The social media site is the hub of the Molson Canadian Cold Shots Campus Challenge, in which universities and colleges from across the country vie for the title of #1 Party School.

Visitors to the Facebook group will find the page split into virtual dorm rooms, each of which represents a different school. The school that uploads the most photos to its respective dorm room earns bragging rights as the nation’s top party school. The individual who uploads the best photo—as judged by a panel of Molson representatives—will win a trip for four to Cancun for spring break. (Where they can get drunk every night). The group profile page also includes an interactive guitar game, downloadable screensavers, concert photos and polls.

According to Marketing Magazine, Heather Clark, director of strategy for their ad agency Henderson Bas, says Molson was looking to leverage the institutional pride of Canadian students. “We know that students feel this almost addictive sense of school spirit when they head to school in the fall, and this campaign allows us to tap into that and get people from all the schools involved,” says Clark. She adds that Facebook was a logical medium to use to engage the student crowd.

“It allows us to fish where the fish are and get people involved in the program,” she says. Clark says “the campaign has not been met with any resistance from university officials, despite the fact that many university and college students are not of legal drinking age”. The campaign launched last month and concludes on Nov. 29.

Perhaps I can enlighten the University administrators in Canada who obviously do not care about what goes on in their Universities. And their young (and getting younger) students. Obviously Molson’s and their agency Henderson Bas don’t seem to care.

According to experts the effects of excess alcohol consumption on health have been clearly documented, not only in terms of diseases such as certain cancers, strokes, hypertension and liver disease, but also with social and economic problems. For young people in particular, alcohol is strongly related to traffic injuries, violence and high risk sexual activity. Alcohol use is the norm among Canadian adults, but uncontrolled alcohol use in terms of drinking to excess or while driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol produce not only fatalities and serious traffic incidents but inappropriate role modeling for youth.

Excessive alcohol consumption begun early in life not only leads to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis and alcoholic psychosis, but also is implicated in unintentional injuries and deaths, including traffic injuries (Harkin, Anderson and Goos, 1997).

Since alcohol is widely used in most Canadian homes, and consumption of wine or beer is a normal part of special occasions, it is not surprising that by Grade 10 over 90 percent of young people had tried alcohol. Even for a Grade 6 sample, about two-thirds had tried alcohol. Slightly more boys than girls had tried alcohol, but the differences were small in Grades 9 and 10.

While it is not uncommon for adolescents to seek greater independence and try more adult-like behaviour that might involve alcohol use at parties, the high proportion of Grade 10 students who had been drunk at least twice indicates potentially serious alcohol-abuse problems. Since these young people tend to be beginning drivers the combination of driving and drunkenness and driving under the influence of alcohol can be lethal. Also there are implications for unwanted pregnancies, STDs and injuries.

Epidemiological studies have identified the unsafe use of alcohol as a leading cause of preventable injuries and deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents, diving and drowning-related injuries, alcohol poisoning and assaults and suicides among young people in Ontario (Van Truong et al., 1998).

The Ontario cost-of-illness study revealed that alcohol accounts for 69% of the drug-related days of hospital stay among 10-19 year-olds, and 61% of the days among 20-24 year olds (Xie et al., 1996). An estimated 8,200 Ontario students in grades 7-13 received alcohol or drug treatment during 2000 (Adlaf et al., 2001). An assessment of the main adverse effects of substance abuse identified alcohol as the leading cause of young lives lost due to violence and accidents (Hall et al., 1998). The role of alcohol as a contributor to ‘years of life lost’ from premature death accounts for 86% of the ‘years lost’ in people aged 10-24. By a very substantial margin, alcohol accounts for the greatest immediate health threat to young people (Xie et al., 1996).

Alcohol also exacts a heavy toll on the social and emotional well being of young people. One quarter of 15-19 year olds report at least one type of health, family relationship, school or work-related problem over the past year due to their own drinking; over half report being involved in arguments, insulted, pushed or hit in the past year as a result of someone else’s drinking (VanTruong, Williams and Timoshenko, 1998).

The Ontario Student Drug Use Survey (OSDUS), a biennial survey of Ontario students from Grades 7-12 conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), reveals that the percentage of students who drink alcohol increased significantly to 66% in 2003 from 56% in 1993 (Adlaf et al.,2003).

In the same survey, it was found that 12% of students reported weekly drinking, and 28% of students who drink are reporting episodes of harmful or hazardous drinking (Adlaf et al., 2003). Seventy-five percent (75%) of grade 10 students in Ontario have consumed alcohol over the past year (Adlaf et al., 2003). Similar results were obtained “Excessive drinking leads to a severe threat of alcohol poisoning, and students need to realize that alcohol poisoning is a life and death situation.”— Greg Turner, Campus Security Sergeant, University of Alberta, 2002.

A recent study of drinking practices at Canadian universities reveals unsafe consumption of alcohol among university students is a major cause for concern The Canadian Campus Survey, a study of 7,800 undergraduate students at 16 universities across Canada conducted by CAMH and the University of Montreal, found that 62.7% of students consumed 5 or more drinks on a single occasion and 34.8% reported drinking 8 or more drinks on a single occasion at least once since the beginning of the school year. On average, students reported consuming 5 or more drinks about twice per month and 8 or more drinks about once per month since September. Students living in university residences were most likely to report unsafe drinking practices, with 70.4% of residence students reporting 5 or more drinks per occasion and 44.2% reporting 8 or more drinks per occasion at least once since the beginning of the school year.

Advocates for the prevention of alcohol-related problems at colleges and universities face the challenge of working in an environment where:

a) Most students are of legal drinking age;

b) Alcohol is readily available to students both on and off- campus; and

c) Excess alcohol consumption is regarded by students and administrators alike as a traditional aspect of student social life and a natural rite of passage between adolescence and adulthood (DeJong et al., 1999).

However, the reported consequences of binge drinking on university campuses, such as, alcohol poisoning, unwanted sexual advances, and crime and vandalism, shatters the image of this practice as an innocent “rite of passage”. Unsafe alcohol consumption by university students has been identified as a causal factor for a range of problems, including lower academic achievement, poor health outcomes and violence.

For example, studies recorded by the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit (2004) found that frequent binge drinkers were more likely than non-binge drinkers to report engaging in unplanned sexual activity, failing to use protection when having sex, damaging property, providing a rationalization for violent behaviour, and being hurt or injured.

Impaired academic performance was reported as a key consequence of binge drinking among students responding to the Canadian Campus Survey. Specifically, 10.5% of respondents reported missing classes due to a hangover, while 7.3% reported missing classes due to drinking (CAMH, 2000). The health and social consequences of episodic heavy drinking (also referred to as “binge” drinking) at universities are by no means restricted to the students practicing unsafe alcohol consumption. Ontario university students responding to a survey on alcohol and other drug use reported being insulted or humiliated by someone who had been drinking (Gliksman et al., 2000). Students participating in the same survey highlighted ‘student alcohol use’ as being one of four serious problems on campus. Alcohol-related violence and sexual assaults are of particular concern in regards to student alcohol use.

A U.S. study revealed that 26 percent of female students who drank in moderation reported unwanted sexual advances due to another student’s drinking, and two percent said they had been victims of unwanted sexual advances or rape (Weschler et al., 1995). Sixty four percent of students who were victims of a physical assault reported drinking or taking drugs shortly before the attacks (CORE Institute, 1995).

For more information go to;

So with all this information why there is no resistance from university officials regarding this Molson’s campaign, despite the fact that many university and college students are not of legal drinking age. Good question, perhaps someone can respond by writing to me and explaining that with all this evidence Molson’s is allowed to get away with this. Write to

Postscript: November 27, 2007 Marketing Magazine

Last week, Molson got into hot water over a Facebook campaign for its Molson Cold Shots that asked students to submit photos demonstrating their school spirit and party prowess to the Molson Canadian Nation group on Facebook.

The school that uploaded the most photos was to earn bragging rights as the nation’s top party school. According to a report in Monday’s Globe and Mail, Molson shut the promotion down early because it was being “misinterpreted” as promoting irresponsible drinking.


Alberta is becoming a hotbed for public sector marketing


Looks like Alberta with its oil wealth is now funding public sector campaigns. One is for healthy living and the other for a tourism campaign to visit Fort McMurray of all places.

Here is an interesting approach to a healthy living campaign .


Alberta Gov’t begins a movement

Click to play ad (3.2 MB)

The Alberta government has launched a $2 million public education campaign that uses black humour to encourage young Albertans to live a healthier, more active lifestyle.

The multimedia “Create a Movement” campaign from MacLaren McCann West in Calgary uses TV, radio, public transit, print and cinema to target tweens, teens and their parents.

Getting the message out to such a diverse audience was a challenge, says Mike Meadus, creative director at the agency’s Calgary office. “We had to get the attention of our younger audience without seeming preachy. At the same time, we needed to startle parents somewhat to encourage them to rethink their kids’ activity level and also what goes into the shopping cart at the grocery store.”

One 30-second spot aimed at tweens shows a girl running away from a giant French fry, a cookie and other junk foods, before a super reveals that “Teens face 17 ads for processed food every day. That’s over 6,000 ads a year.” The spot ends with the tag line, “Eat smart, move more” and a throw to the campaign website, Another aimed at teenagers depicts a listless boy lying on a couch watching TV and oblivious to an giant soccer ball, hockey stick and other sports equipment repeatedly ringing his doorbell.

Click to play ad (5.5 MB)

A TV spot aimed at parents shows a doctor warning a patient that her blood pressure and cholesterol are dangerously high. When the camera zooms in, the patient is revealed as a young girl. The spot ends with the line: “Type 2 diabetes, once found only in adults, is now being diagnosed in six-year-olds.” A print ad with the line “You control their future”

shows a quasi-funeral scene with a young man lying inside a couch clutching a remote.

The campaign is part of the Government of Alberta’s larger “Healthy You” strategy to improve the health of Albertans. The “Create a Movement” campaign is co-sponsored by Alberta Sobeys stores and the Edmonton and Calgary Zoos and will run province-wide until early 2008.


Who would have “thunk it’ a tourism campaign for a dreary oil town like Ft McMurray. I guess there is a market for anything. One would think if Newfoundlanders would be visiting their friends and family in Alberta they would find a meeting place in the beautiful rockies, i.e. Jasper, Banff etc.

Fort McMurray Tourism appeals to Newfoundlanders

Fort McMurray Tourism, Travel Alberta North and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo have joined forces to launch a marketing campaign that encourages residents of Newfoundland and Labrador to visit Fort McMurray.

The campaign includes a website, print and radio ads and a contest to win a trip for two to the Alberta town. The print ad depicts a young man posing alone for a team hockey picture, with the tag line, “Missing your friends and family in Fort McMurray?”

The ad alerts viewers to a contest, which can be entered via the website until Dec. 31.

The campaign was inspired by the fact that 35% of Fort McMurray’s population is comprised of transplanted Newfoundlanders, says Craig Redmond, vice-president and creative director for Grey Vancouver, which created the campaign.

“These people have actually brought a lot of their culture to Fort McMurray, but the one thing they say they miss most is their friends and family,” says Redmond. “The idea is to get them to encourage their friends and family to come out and visit them.”

The campaign also includes the sponsorship of a concert series in Fort McMurray by the Newfoundland band Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers. Representatives from Fort McMurray Tourism will hand out campaign postcards to concert-goers.

The media executions, which debut this week, will run in both Newfoundland and Labrador and Fort McMurray.