It’s hard to imagine a weaker result — and it’s hard to think that anyone, even a government used to spending other people’s money — keeping it up.
Imagine that you were running a business, spending millions on advertising to promote your website, but you were more than a little curious about whether the ads were actually working. Say then that you decided to poll a sample of the people who saw your ads, just to find out if the campaign was working. Then imagine, to your horror, that out of a sample of 2,003 people, only three even bothered to go to your website. Not one single person polled reported calling your much vaunted 1-800 number, another part of the campaign. Nine, however, told the pollsters they complained or “expressed displeasure” about your ads.
Perhaps your next move would be to fire your advertising agency and pull your ads, because that looks pretty much like something close to abject failure.
But while that’s the result the federal government found when it did polling to find out how well its Economic Action Plan ads were working — the results of which were obtained by The Canadian Press under federal access to information law — the plug, apparently, isn’t even close to being pulled.
In May, the federal government issued a tender to run the ads some more, potentially right into 2016.
You may recognize the ads, especially because they’ve run so often, even taking high-priced advertising slots during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The 30-second spots show workers building planes and ships while a voice-over talks about apprenticeship grants, student loans and innovation. Another thing you might remember? The ads end with a tidy little musical jingle that essentially hijacks a portion of Canada’s national anthem.
But while they may have been played enough to legitimately be described as ubiquitous, they certainly cannot be described as cheap — not by any stretch of the imagination.
So far, Economic Action Plan ads — which many have complained are simply thinly-veiled advertising for the federal Conservatives — have cost Canadian taxpayers roughly $113 million. Polling by the federal Finance Department to see how effective the ads are has cost another $330,000.
Maybe the advertising part of the whole exercise should be renamed the Economic Inaction Plan. Or maybe a real cost-benefit analysis should be done, including breaking out who’s paying the costs, and who’s garnering the benefits.
And maybe after that, the advertising would be identified for just what it is — political advertising that should actually be paid for by the political party that’s so actively interested in putting the ads out there, rather than by taxpayers.
Chances are, if the Tories were paying for the ads themselves, they long ago would have decided that the miniscule bang wasn’t worth the massive bucks.
You can only defend the pathetic return on financial investment if, in fact, the money you’re spending is something you’re getting for free.