U.S. energy advertising blitz cost Canadians $24M

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U.S. energy advertising blitz cost Canadians $24M

Campaign to boost energy exports had little success, documents show

The Canadian Press

Mar 22, 2015

The multimillion-dollar campaign to market Canadian oil in the United States was hard to miss.

The Maple Leaf was plastered on the walls of subway stops in Washington, D.C., and it popped up in all sorts of American publications with messages such as, "America's Best Energy Partner," and "Friends and Neighbors."

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press offer a peek at the behind-the-scenes strategic considerations in 2013, as the federal government conducted a $1.6-million ad campaign in the United States that grew into a $24-million, two-year program that wraps up this month.

The records, released under the Access to Information Act, reveal:

  • The websites to be shunned as advertising outlets.
  • The internet search words that would trigger a Canadian energy ad.
  • The coveted locations for billboards in Washington, D.C.
  • The rejected proposals.
  • The U.S. ad salespeople who angled for a slice of the publicity pie.

Throughout the two-year campaign, the Keystone pipeline issue remained unresolved. But that doesn't mean it failed, defenders say. In fact, the ads didn't mention Keystone. The original call for tenders spelled out the mission: to defend Canadian energy's reputation against hostile groups and lawmakers threatening anti-oilsands measures in the U.S. and Europe.

One proposed weapon for fighting back: pop-up ads.

Someone whose name was blacked out proposed using so-called takeover or roadblock ads that would monopolize people's computer screens: "If we're going to do this right, we might as well go big."