Friday, June 19, 2009

G to the C-dot

If you want to know just how dependent Canadian media are on government social marketing, check this out:

A big drop in government advertising helped pull down radio advertising by 13.9% in the third quarter, according to Canadian Broadcast Sales, which represents more than 60% of all private radio revenues.

Spending from all government sources dropped 54%, while federal government spending was down 61% in the quarter—Ottawa’s cuts alone accounted for more than one-quarter of the total decline, according to CBS.

Yikes! This is my bread-and-butter we're talking about here! You can't even blame the bandwagon move to social media on this one, because government regulations severely inhibit its presence on Web 2.0 (although my loyal readers will already know how to deal with that!)

In 2006-2007 (the last reporting period published) the Government of Canada spent $71,224,000 on advertising campaigns. If this seems like a lot, consider that most advertising money (the rule of thumb is 80% in the private sector) goes into media buys. The GoC, which is required by its own regulations to reach people equally in two languages, all over Canada, requires even more elaborate media buys.

I'm sure there are lots of people out there who think this money is wasted. But as someone in the trenches, post-Gomery, I can tell you that this is not a sector that will make you rich. Rather, government advertising has become as driven by ROI (even if the "R" is awareness or attitudes) as any other type. Intensifying competition is driving down professional fees. And the accountability for agencies is iron clad.

Also, most government advertising is in the public service: programs and information that can improve your quality of life, or someone else's. In the past year, I've worked on campaigns to help people be prepared for civic emergencies, to ensure the safety out their food supply, to protect themselves against swine flu, and to be aware and speak out against elder abuse, to name just a few. As we say at Acart, it's "Work that matters"...

So here's my modest proposal: If we're going to spend government money on industries in trouble, don't reduce advertising spending. Canada's communication and advertising industry worth $15 billion annually, according to ICA, and it's an industry of creative innovation that feeds intellectual property into our knowledge economy daily. Plus, of course, the media spending on all those obscure regional publication will keep up the diversity of regional voices that make our country so interesting. Not to mention all the spin-off work that keeps Montreal's, Toronto's, and Vancouver's film industry and actors' unions alive.

We're still doing fine here at our shop, but I worry about what it will mean to our industry as a whole if government social marketing spending gets slashed further in a recession that has seen a huge decline in many of the major industrial clients.

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