Advertising the Government
I don’t know about you, but if I see one more of those Canadian Economic Action Plan (CEAP) commercials on TV, I’m going to pop a blood vessel in my temple (the vein adjacent to the other ruptured one labeled “F-35 acquisition”). It’s not just that these annoying ads are popping during prime time on every Canadian network so often, those first four notes of “Oh Canada” they play at the end, makes me cringe worse than the Fabreeze whistle. It’s not just repetitiveness that rivals “Ho-Ho-Hold the Payments” ads during Christmas that is so irksome, however. What really grates our parmesan is the knowledge this is a lot of money; yours and my money, being spent foolishly.
Does the government really need to use the most expensive advertising medium in the most expensive time slots to reach people that are trying to reach them? Let’s face it, it’s not like the services the government have available are also being offered by some competitor and the government needs to advertise to gain market share. This isn’t hamburgers they’re pushing. They do have a range of services available to Canadian citizens but we would hope the vast majority of Canadian citizens know that if they need some service from the government, they should contact the government. There’s websites galore for every department, there’s offices located in every major city and many smaller centers, and there are special sections in the phonebook for any remaining Luddites. Do they really need to advertise every five minutes or so while The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is on? Must we hear those four notes so often they have become synonymous with wasting money According to press reports, the CEAP campaign alone is costing the taxpayers $16 million. This is only a quarter of the $64 million in advertising already approved for expenditure for this year. If you think that is a lot of dough for someone not selling a product, consider that, on average, recent governmental reports show for the last five years, the feds have overspent their already-whopping ad budgets by an average of 37%. In 2009-2010 alone, they had budgeted 85.3 million but actually spent, (are you ready for this?) a mind boggling $136.3 million. Where is the tough fiscal governance we thought we were getting when we voted for this supposedly conservative government? In a private company, if you overspend your budget by so much as a penny, the knives immediately come out. These guys were $53 million over an already outlandish amount. They explained the extra expenditures on the economic collapse and dealing with a flu epidemic.
So, what did they buy with their mega-millions? (Besides the adoration of advertising firms in central Canada, I mean.) Probably from their perspective they got a whole lotta PR for the Harper Conservatives. It makes them look like they are doing something about the problems of the nation. Whether they get results or not is irrelevant. It’s not like the ads are reaching throngs of previously oblivious individuals sitting on the couch watching Colbert while thinking, “Gee, I would get a job if only I knew how to access federal government employment services. I would, like, totally get me off my butt if they could just do some saturation bombing of their phone number while I am chilling in front of the boobtube!”
Another irritating aspect to the constant reminder of federal waste known as the CEAP ads, is that it sounds like this is some kind of bold, new direction for the government. In all actuality, this is the last year of the action plan which, like most of its namesakes, was long on plan and short on action. Blowing $16 million on a dying project, smacks of managers with money leftover in the office supply budget, suddenly starting to requisition their weight in pens and sticky notes. “Better spend the whole budgeted amount or we won’t get the same amount as last year, and if we blow enough to go over-budget, they’ll increase it next year!” It appears that same mentality is at work.
As previously mentioned, the federal government shouldn’t be trying to push their services on us, they need to make them easier to access for those who actually phone in so they don’t get swept up in “press one” purgatory so popular with entities looking to discourage clients. The phone company uses this approach with great success.
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