Media planning and buying—2015 to 2016 Annual report on Government of Canada advertising activities

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The single largest advertising expenditure in any given year is for the purchase of media space and time. In 2015 to 2016, placements in international and domestic media accounted for $30.3 million or 71.8% of all advertising expenditures. Of this, only $11,377 was spent on international media, for space in American and French magazines.

The Government of Canada advertises in many kinds of media. Each media has its advantages and disadvantages and institutions consider several factors before deciding on which ones to use. Media plans take into account, the objectives of the campaign, audience profiles, research on media trends and audience preferences, media availability and costs.

In 2015, the Government of Canada changed the way it plans, purchases and tracks media spending. Media planning and buying services were amalgamated under the Government’s Agency of record (AOR), and digital ad serving, tracking and reporting services were contracted to a separate technology agency. The new model is intended to make processes more agile and to increase the transparency and quality of digital advertising reporting.

A word about digital advertising

Over the past several years, the Government of Canada has steadily increased its use of digital media as more and more Canadians spend time on digital and mobile platforms. At present, 87% of Canadian households have internet accessFootnote 1 and by 2018, the number of digital desktops, tablets, smartphone devices is forecasted to reach 314 million devices.Footnote 2

In 2015, digital advertising spending in Canada grew 21% across industries – even as overall campaign budgets stayed flat or were reduced.Footnote 3 The potential for future growth is likely as digital costs lower, effectiveness increases, and trust deepens with audiences.Footnote 4

Chart 2: Agency of record media placements expenditures by type in 2015 to 2016

Chart 2: Agency of record media placements expenditures by type in 2015 to 2016 - Text version below the image.

Source: Government of Canada Agency of record, Cossette Media of Toronto, a division of Cossette Communication Group. Excludes media purchased directly by institutions for public notices.

Image description of chart 2

This pie chart shows expenditures attributed to the purchase of media placements divided among eight major categories (cinema, Internet, out-of-home, dailies/national newspapers, magazines, weekly/community newspapers, radio and television) by the Government of Canada over the last fiscal year.

298 media purchases

Chart 3: Agency of record digital media placements as a percentage of all media: A five year view

Chart 3: Agency of record (AOR) digital media placements as a percentage of all media—a five year view - Text version below the image.

Image description of chart 3

This line chart shows the Agency of record digital media placements as a percentage of all media from 2011 to 2016.


There are many forms of digital advertising. Government of Canada digital expenditures are captured in three categories: display (including display purchased through real-time bidding), social media and search engine marketing.

An example of an internet display advertisement from the Welcome Syrian Refugees campaign by Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Display includes advertising in different text, image and audio formats, such as banner or big box ads published on a website for viewing by site visitors. It includes display advertising which is purchased through an online auction-based method, referred to as real-time bidding.
An example of a Social Media advertisement from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Social Media refers to website and mobile technologies that enable users to create content and participate in conversations in a defined network, for example, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
An example of a search engine marketing campaign from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Search Engine Marketing is a form of advertising used to promote websites and attract visitors by increasing their visibility in search engine results, on platforms such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

Official language, ethnic and Aboriginal media expenditures

This chart provides expenditures in specialized print, radio and television media aimed at ethnic, Aboriginal and official language minority communities.

Chart 4: Agency of record official language, ethnic, and Aboriginal media placements in 2015 to 2016

Chart 4: Agency of record official language, ethnic, and Aboriginal media placements in 2015 to 2016 - Text version below the image.

Image description of chart 4

This pie chart shows 2015 to 2016 media expenditures in specialized print, radio and television aimed at official language, ethnic and Aboriginal and communities, in particular.

Official language:



Notes: Official language television includes spending in selective outlets only. Spending on national networks, such as Radio-Canada, TVA and Télévision Quatre Saisons (TQS), that reach mainstream audiences in addition to official language minority communities, are reported in Chart 2.

Expenditures by institution

As part of the Government of Canada’s advertising management process, institutions document their advertising activities in a centralized information system. At the end of the fiscal year, once all the expenditures have been entered and verified, institutions certify the final amounts for the purposes of this annual report.

Forty-nine institutions advertised in fiscal year 2015 to 2016. The top ten advertisers accounted for $36.7 million or 86.7% of all advertising expenditures.

Chart 5: Top 10 largest Government of Canada advertisers in 2015 to 2016

Chart 5: Top 10 largest Government of Canada advertisers in 2015 to 2016 (in millions (M) of dollars) - Text version below the image.

Image description of chart 5

This horizontal bar chart shows the advertising expenditures of the top ten Government of Canada advertisers in millions of dollars in 2015 to 2016.

A word about Statistics Canada

Every five years, Statistics Canada launches a major advertising campaign to inform Canadians of their obligation to complete the Census. In 2015 to 2016, the department spent $6 million to conceptualize the campaign, develop creative materials and pre-book media in preparation for an April 2016 to 2017 start up.

Table summary

This table lists Government of Canada institutions by total amount spent by each on advertising activities with and without the Agency of Record in 2015 to 2016.

Table 3: Advertising expenditures by institution in 2015 to 2016 (in dollars)
Institutions Expenditures without AOR
(public notices only)
Expenditures with AOR Total
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada 90,481 0 90,481
Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada 68,740 0 68,740
Agriculture and Agri-Food 0 327,620 327,620
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency 0 25,500 25,500
Canada Border Services Agency 7,664 0 7,664
Canada Revenue Agency 9,613 1,781,163 1,790,775
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety 0 12,956 12,956
Digital Campaign managed by PWGSC
0 45,701 45,701
Total institution
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency 217,433 0 217,433
Canadian Food Inspection Agency 27,969 0 27,969
Canadian Grain Commission 25,365 98,945 124,310
Canadian Heritage 0 5,499,808 5,499,808
Canadian Institutes of Health Research 3,245 0 3,245
Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency 36,079 0 36,079
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission 125,798 0 125,798
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission 0 43,355 43,355
Digital Campaign managed by PWGSC
0 36,825 36,825
Total institution
Canadian Security Intelligence Service 81,862 0 81,862
Citizenship and Immigration Canada 4,651 2,692,357 2,697,008
Digital Campaign managed by PWGSC
0 451,342 451,342
Total institution
Correctional Service Canada 18,744 0 18,744
Courts Administration Service 20,316 0 20,316
Department of Finance Canada 0 5,911,670 5,911,670
Department of Justice 1,045 45,679 46,724
Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec 32,976 0 32,976
Employment and Social Development Canada 11,945 4,261,625 4,273,570
Environment Canada 8,295 10,193 18,487
Farm Products Council of Canada 31,423 0 31,423
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada 0 596,419 596,419
Fisheries and Oceans Canada 134,309 0 134,309
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada 341,588 0 341,588
Digital Campaign managed by PWGSC
0 5,985 5,985
Total institution
0 0 347,573
Health Canada 15,434 1,803,073 1,818,507
Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada 1,817 0 1,817
Industry Canada 0 0 0
Digital Campaign managed by PWGSC
0 46,709 46,709
Total institution
National Defence 9,169 3,206,822 3,215,991
Digital Campaign managed by PWGSC
0 77,125 77,125
Total institution
National Energy Board 61,310 0 61,310
National Film Board 318,570 0 318,570
National Research Council of Canada 95,445 0 95,445
Office of the Governor General's Secretary 136,449 0 136,449
Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada 5,463 0 5,463
Parks Canada 181,353 1,158,888 1,340,241
Public Health Agency of Canada 0 269,903 269,903
Public Prosecutions Service of Canada 910 0 910
Public Service Commission of Canada 6,049 0 6,049
Public Works and Government Services Canada 177,872 186,635 364,507
Royal Canadian Mounted Police 106,862 1,679,414 1,786,275
Statistics Canada 0 6,018,930 6,018,930
The National Battlefields Commission 126,232 0 126,232
Transport Canada 170,487 14,000 184,487
Transportation Safety Board of Canada 460 0 460
Treasury Board 300 0 300
Veterans Affairs Canada 945 3,048,283 3,049,228
Digital Campaign managed by PWGSC
0 94,347 94,347
Total institution
Grand total 2,714,665 39,451,268 42,165,933

Note: Total figures for Public Services and Procurement Canada include expenditures for the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman.

Major campaigns have production and media expenditures exceeding $500,000

Table summary

This table is a list of expenditures by major campaigns by institutions for fiscal year 2015 to 2016. The table contains an alphabetical listing by federal institution, the name of the campaign, a description of the campaign, the media used, the creative agency used, and the amount spent for each of them.

Table 4: Advertising expenditures by major campaign in 2015 to 2016 (in dollars)
  Campaign / Public notice name Creative agency Production Media Total Television Print Radio Internet Cinema Out-of-home
Canada Revenue Agency Tax Savings:
Encouraged taxpayers to take advantage of applicable tax relief measures and to file tax returns online and on time.
kbs+p Canada Inc. 18,646 1,320,893 1,339,539 Yes No No No No No
Canadian Heritage Canada 150—The Great Canadian North:
Showcased the discovery of the wreck of HMS Erebus, from the 1845 Franklin Expedition, to foster national pride in Canada’s heritage. This was part of a broader strategy to encourage public involvement in community activities and events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Entreprise de Communications Tank Inc. 2,241,459 3,212,254 5,453,713 Yes No No Yes Yes No
Citizenship and Immigration Canada Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA):
Informed foreign nationals about the new requirement to obtain an electronic travel authorization (eTA) before travelling to Canada.
Agency 59 Ltd. 69,665 2,571,882 2,641,547 No Yes No Yes No No
Department of Finance Canada Economic Action Plan:
Promoted key initiatives, programs and benefits under Canada’s Economic Action Plan (EAP), including those flowing from the fall economic and fiscal update.
kbs+p Canada Inc. 559,018 5,352,652 5,911,670 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Employment and Social Development Canada Universal Child Care Benefit:
Provided information on the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) enhancement measures and encouraged parents to update to update their information and/or register online to claim their benefits.
Acart Communications Inc. 656,684 3,528,469 4,185,153 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Financial Literacy Online Portal:
Encouraged Canadians to access the new Financial Literacy Portal to get information on how to make good financial decisions.
Manifest Communications Inc. 25,834 499,836 525,669 No No No Yes No No
Health Canada Prescription Drug Abuse:
Informed the public about the harms and risks associated with prescription drug abuse and the importance of securely storing, monitoring and disposing of prescription medications.
Terrain Ogilvy Inc. 56,557 1,262,507 1,319,065 Yes No No Yes No No
National Defence Recruitment:
Encouraged Canadians from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to learn about career opportunities in the Canadian Forces.
Terrain Ogilvy Inc. 205,592 2,999,827 3,205,419 Yes No No Yes No No
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Recruitment:
Encouraged women, visible minorities and Aboriginal peoples to get more information on careers and opportunities in Canada's national police force to support the RCMP's goal of a workforce reflective of the communities it serves.
Terrain Ogilvy Inc. 431,470 1,247,944 1,679,414 Yes No No Yes No No
Statistics Canada 2016 Census of Population Advertising:
Informed Canadians about the importance of the census and how to complete the questionnaires online, by mail or with an operator through the census help line.
Manifest Communications Inc. 1,189,882 4,829,048 6,018,930 Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Veterans Affairs Canada Remembrance Vignette:
Encouraged Canadians to learn about the sacrifices and contributions of veterans and to participate in remembrance activities honouring Canada's men and women in uniform.
Target Marketing & Communications Inc. 592,682
Yes No No Yes No Yes
Digital campaign managed through PWGSC Acart Communications Inc. 19,285 75,062 94,347 N/A N/A N/A Yes N/A N/A

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