Introduction—2016 to 2017 Annual report on Government of Canada advertising activities

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Government of Canada advertising is an important way to convey essential information to Canadians in an efficient and timely manner, including on government policies, programs and services, rights and responsibilities, as well as risks to public health, safety and the environment. In fiscal year 2016 to 2017, the Government of Canada spent $36.1 million on advertising (including planning, production of creative materials and media). Typically, through advertising, Canadians are invited to take part in an event, visit a website, call a telephone number for more information, or to take advantage of the programs and services advertised.

Government of Canada advertising is defined as any message conveyed in Canada or abroad and paid for by the government for placement in media, including but not limited to newspapers, television, radio, cinema, billboards and other out-of-home media, mobile devices, the internet, and any other digital medium.

Non-partisan review

With the launch of the Policy on Communications and Federal Identity on May 11, 2016, a new oversight mechanism for advertising came into effect, the non-partisan review. All government advertising campaigns with budgets over $500,000 must be reviewed to ensure that creative materials are non-partisan. Campaigns with smaller budgets may also be voluntarily submitted for review. Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), the independent organization that administers the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, conducts the reviews on behalf of the Government of Canada.

The Policy on Communications and Federal Identity establishes the following criteria for non-partisan advertising:

  • It is objective, factual, and explanatory
  • It is free from political party slogans, images, identifiers; bias; designation; or affiliation
  • The primary colour associated with the governing party is not used in a dominant way, unless an item is commonly depicted in that colour
  • Advertising is devoid of any name, voice or image of a minister, Member of Parliament or senator

Infographic: Non-partisan review process

Infographic: Non-partisan review process - Image description is below.

Description of Infographic: Non-partisan review process

Public Services and Procurement Canada coordinates the review process between institutions and Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) and sends final review determinations to Treasury Board Secretariat. The review process is mandatory for all advertising campaigns with budgets over $500,000. Institutions can also choose to voluntarily submit their campaigns with smaller budgets for review.

The non-partisan review includes:

  1. The initial review
    • Institutions submit preliminary creative material (like scripts, storyboards)
    • ASC completes initial review and provides determinations
    • Institutions address ASC determinations, if required 
  2. The final review
    • Institutions submit final creative elements for final review
    • ASC completes final review to confirm the creatives are non-partisan
  3. Results and decisions
    • Treasury Board Secretariat publishes review results and decisions on Canada.ca 

From the date the new policy came into effect on May 11, 2016, all major government advertising campaigns have been reviewed. Detailed non-partisan advertising review results and decisions can be found on Canada.ca.

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