Harper government’s Economic Action Plan ads a bust: poll

Andy Radia

Not that the Canadian public needed an expensive taxpayer funded survey to tell them this, but those Harper government Economic Action Plan commercials have been deemed essentially useless.

On Sunday, the Canadian Press, released details of the latest internal finance ministry poll which proves that Canadians are tuning out when those commercials pop-up on to their television sets.

A key measure of the ads’ impact is whether viewers check out actionplan.gc.ca, the web portal created in 2009 to promote the catch-all brand.

But a survey of 2,003 adult Canadians completed in April identified just three people who actually visited the website.

The poll — mandatory under federal advertising rules — did not report anyone who called the toll-free number shown on screen, 1-800-O-Canada, another explicit goal of the ad campaign.

The CP story goes on to say that, over the past four years, the Harper government has spent about $113 million on action plan promotion.

In 2012, alone, they spent $21 million on EAP ads on high profile and high priced televised events like the Super Bowl, the Grammys and the Oscars.

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Interestingly, the finance department defends the ads, using different data.

"Post-advertising evaluations conducted by the Department of Finance have actually shown the campaign significantly raised awareness among Canadians of the economic and job creation programs available to them and their communities," spokesperson Stephanie Rubec told Yahoo! Canada News in an email exchange.

"In fact, awareness of the Economic Action Plan among Canadians increased to a high of 62% in the winter of 2013 from a low of 20% in 2009. As well, Economic Action Plan Web Site traffic data showed a marked increase of more than 450% during the winter 2013 campaigns, to 12,602 per-day visits from a baseline of 2,298 per-day visits."

And, while Rubec says the Department of Finance hasn't made a final decision on advertisements for 2013/14, the government has already put out a call out for a "creative contractor" to produce the next wave of EAP commercials through 2014 with options to go through 2016.

"The advertising will...serve to strengthen ongoing consumer confidence in the Canadian economy and the direction of the country," notes the notice according to a CP story from May.

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The EAP ads may have had a role in past, particularly through the economic downturn when the government was trying to stimulate the economy. Previous internal polls, for example, suggested that the ads were successful in engaging the public when they were promoting their home renovation subsidy.

But, now, most analysts agree that these ads are nothing more than partisan propaganda.

"These ads no longer serve a higher purpose of reassuring the public. Their fringe benefit — boosting the Conservatives’ electoral prospects — has become the only benefit," Matt Gurney of the National Post wrote in his column published on Monday.

"If the Conservatives wish to run ads touting their economic credentials, they’re certainly welcome to purchase airtime at their own expense. Taxpayer dollars should no longer be spent making the government look good."

Ironically, the cost of these ads are starting to make the government look bad.

(Photo is a screen shot from actionplan.gc.ca)

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