Advertising Run Awry

What do you call it when a very large advertiser hands out advertising contracts largely to cronies and pays no interest to the results? Well, that is what apparently happened in Canada over the last few years.

The report comes out tomorrow (Tuesday), and it will be bad news for Canadian advertising agencies, and worse news for the new Paul Martin government. Here is the sanitized overview, but insiders are saying that the full report is painful stuff:

Between 1998-1999 and 2002-2003, the federal government ran more than 2,200 advertising activities with contracts valued at about $793 million, making it one of the largest advertisers in the country. Our audit looked at whether in contracting for advertising services, the federal government ensured that it obtained best value for the Crown in a process that was transparent and gave equal access to suppliers of advertising services. We also looked at whether departments ensured that their advertising campaigns were designed to achieve the expected results.

An initial report back in 2002 said that the Canadian bureaucrats had “broken every rule in the book”, with some Canadian advertising agencies getting close to a million dollars for doing no work. The opposition party claims it has evidence the contracts were secret payments to firms for work they did for the Liberals in the 1997 federal election, which would be a violation of campaign financing laws.

The best part is how it is being played by the Paul Martin government. People close Prime Minister stress emphasize that this all happened during the 10-year reign of the prior prime minister, Jean Chretien. Critics correctly point out that Mr. Martin was finance minister for nine of those years.