Edmonton Journal

History lesson in Ottawa’s ad bombs

- Jordan Press Postmedia News

OTTAWA — A federal government advertisem­ent touting Canada’s history made viewers less interested in learning more about that history than another concept ad created as part of the Canada 150 campaign, according to a recently released report.

The so-called Frozen in Time ad that has been running since the fall depicts Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Etienne Cartier shaking hands as part of Canada’s founding, followed by Canadians celebratin­g Olympic hockey gold. The ad marks the 150th anniversar­y of the Quebec Conference and the related Charlottet­own Conference that were key stepping stones toward Confederat­ion in 1867.

The second concept ad tested in focus groups was found to be boring, but it prodded participan­ts to learn more about Canadian history. That ad never aired. The so-called Maple Leaf advertisem­ent had footage of landscapes from across the country and ended with a Maple Leaf on a hiker’s backpack. The ad also showed the 72 resolution­s agreed to at the Quebec Conference that laid the foundation for the Constituti­on.

The ad was also a tad tedious. Focus group participan­ts said the Maple Leaf ad seemed a “dull, boring” old idea that looked like “a tourism ad or a Canadian calendar.” Still, the Maple Leaf ad made focus group participan­ts more interested in learning about Canadian history, and specifical­ly those 72 resolution­s.

The findings are in a public opinion research report filed to Canadian Heritage in July, and released this month. The reports are required as part of any major advertisin­g spending by federal department­s. In this instance, the department spent $4.8 million for television and online advertisin­g.

A private company ran eight focus groups with 65 participan­ts in four cities: Calgary, Quebec City, Mississaug­a, Ont., and Fredericto­n, N.B. The focus groups were split by age, one with participan­ts aged 18 to 34, and a second with participan­ts over 35.

“Some participan­ts, especially those in Quebec City and the older Fredericto­n group, were more positive about the Maple leaf concept,” the report said. Participan­ts liked the use of landscape images from across the country.

“Other participan­ts, especially those in Calgary, Mississaug­a and the younger Fredericto­n group, were more positive about the ‘Frozen in Time’ concept. These participan­ts liked the images of Canadians celebratin­g across the country.”

A Canadian Heritage spokesman said the Maple Leaf ad was dropped after focus testing and never aired. Airing the Frozen in Time ad, spokesman Len Westerberg said, was supposed to highlight “pivotal moments that helped to shape our country.”

“This advertisin­g campaign highlights the 150th anniversar­y of the conference­s, which are taking place this year,” Westerberg said in an email.

“As we approach Canada’s 150th anniversar­y in 2017, our government will join Canadians in honouring these important milestones.”

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