Exclusive: B.C. government justifies $36m ad spending

Only $2.6 million of the B.C. government’s $36.065 million advertising budget in 2011-12 was deemed statutory by the government.

Only $2.6 million of the B.C. government’s $36.065 million advertising budget in 2011-12 was deemed statutory by the government.

According to documents obtained via Freedom of Information, $33.434 million was allocated for discretionary advertising. The government originally budgeted only $19.4 million on advertising for the fiscal year.

The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation was the biggest spender at $12.24 million. The $4.99 million pro-HST campaign was part of an $8.953 million contingency draw that included the $3.963 million first phase of the B.C. Jobs Plan.

Another $5.091 million was reallocated internally for the Ministry of Health's Healthy Families sodium reduction and anti-binge-drinking campaigns.

“The province has a responsibility to inform British Columbians about services, programs and policies they depend upon,” reads a September 10 confidential issues note for Citizens’ Services minister Ben Stewart. “We are proud of the successful public awareness campaigns we've undertaken over the past years."

Those campaigns include Canada Starts Here: The B.C. Jobs Plan, Welcome B.C immigrant settlement, Healthy Families, Gotta Be Here Olympic tourism, forest fires, H1N1, ActNow physical activity and LiveSmart climate change.

The government’s agency of record contracts, which expired July 31, 2010, were replaced with a standing offer arrangement for a roster of six agencies: Traction Creative, TBWA, Grey, DDB, Cossette and Rethink. Two of the biggest suppliers, according to the 2011-12 public accounts, were media buyer Vizeum Canada ($15,375,670) and creative shop DDB ($3,368,273).

“Work is assigned to agencies based on their availability/capability, previous history with similar work and areas of expertise,” according to the issues note.

The government spent $13,500 on a Mustel Group qualitative research survey on the jobs campaign and $23,000 for a Vision Critical baseline survey on jobs.

The 2012-13 government information and advertising budget is $16.305 million. Of that, the B.C. jobs campaign is budgeted for $11.1 million, including $2.9 million on production, $8.03 million for ad placement and $167,000 other costs. The records say $4.3 million has been spent on the jobs campaign so far.

The 2012-13 B.C. jobs campaign by Cossette is intended to focus on the international market by “informing potential foreign investors of economic opportunities in B.C.” But the phase-one TV scripts and keyframes show the nine ads are for a domestic audience and promote government policies and initiatives about: low taxes, balanced budget, fitness and arts tax credits, new home buyer bonus, home renovation tax credit, liquefied natural gas, shipbuilding apprenticeship, skills training and small business tax credits.

bmackin@biv.com

@bobmackin

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