Canadian government spending tens of millions on Facebook ads

Canadian government spending tens of millions on Facebook ads

From January 2016 to March 2018, feds spent more than $24.4 million on Facebook and Instagram ads

The government of Canada has been increasing its use of paid Facebook advertisements over the last three years, spending tens of millions of dollars on boosted posts, videos and ad campaigns, new figures tabled in Parliament show.

From Jan. 1, 2016 to March 2018, federal government departments and agencies spent more than $24.4 million on Facebook and Instagram ads, promotions and sponsored posts and videos.

The data, tabled earlier this month in the House of Commons, includes a breakdown of spending by each government department and agency, showcasing a growing government reliance on Facebook for promoting events and publicizing key government messages and policy initiatives.

The biggest spender was Destination Canada, which expensed more than $9.2 million for promoting tourism in Canada to Facebook users during the designated time frame.

The Immigration Department, meanwhile, spent more than $2 million on campaigns, including some international ads promoting visa requirements and economic immigration streams. It also spent $47,497 domestically to provide information about the Syrian refugee program ”in response to the outpouring of support and interest in how to get involved from Canadians,” the department stated.

In 2016-17 the federal procurement department reported that government spending on digital advertising surpassed television for the first time ever. Digital media represented 54.7 per cent of all advertising expenditures last year, with social media representing 23.3 per cent.

The data tabled this month shows agencies that use Facebook for promotion have been increasing their spending on quizzes, campaigns and so-called boosted posts, saying they need to reach people where they are — and more than 20 million people in Canada are on social media.

“More and more Canadians are receiving their news and information via social networks. It is important to connect with Canadians on the channels they are using,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in her written response tabled last week.

“With sponsored posts and social network advertising, even small funding amounts can have a significant impact. All of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s paid posts or promoted videos performed better and received more impressions than if it was only posted organically.”

But Bob Cox, chair of News Media Canada and publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, said it doesn’t make sense for the government to be using taxpayer dollars to support foreign-owned digital companies like Facebook and Google.

“It drives me crazy no one questions this, and I don’t know why because there used to be a time when government would make an effort to use Canadian-owned media,” Cox said.

As a proponent of the print news media, Cox argues print publications in Canada have greater reach and trust levels among the public than social media companies, and that print advertisements are far more effective than fleeting online ads.

Government spending on foreign-owned advertising also hurts not only domestic media companies already suffering from dwindling subscribers and advertising revenues, but also the Canadian economy, which is out millions of dollars that are flowing across the border.

“The federal government is putting”It drives me crazy, no questions this, and I don’t know why because there used to be a time when government would make an effort to use Canadian-owned media,” Cox said. money into companies that are simply taking it out of the country and they’re not re-circulating it, they’re not paying taxes and they’re not contributing to the national economy… that’s the biggest loss from the decline in traditional media.”

Meanwhile, the growth in federal spending on Facebook comes at a time when the company has come under fire over the Cambridge Analytica data breach.

Canada’s ethics committee has been studying data privacy issues following the scandal that allegedly saw the personal information of some 87 million Facebook users — including more than 620,000 Canadians — improperly accessed for political-campaigning purposes ahead of U.K.’s Brexit vote and the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The company faced tough questioning by governments here, in the U.S. and abroad about privacy concerns and the spread of “fake news.”

Company CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized Tuesday during an appearance before the European Parliament in Brussels for how his company handled issues related to fake news, foreign interference in elections and the privacy of Facebook users.

Nura Jabagi, a public scholar at Concordia University specializing in business technology management, says the federal government is simply following suit with what’s happening in the private sector when it comes to jumping aboard the social media advertising train.

But the fear surrounding issues like the Cambridge Analytica breach does diminish public confidence in such websites, which is where traditional media may still have the upper hand.

“Trust is a key factor in communication,” Jabagi said.

“In the current climate … traditional media like newspapers are trusted and reputable sources for government audience.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

Winter driving conditions returned to the Coquihalla Highway on April 10. (ICBC image)
Coquihalla motorists warned of fresh snow

Five to 10 cm of snow is expected today for the mountain highway.

Tom Smithwick has written a new book, Knocking On Freedom’s Door, about his experiences advocating for a drug addiction treatment program in Kelowna. (File photo)
‘Knocking On Freedom’s Door’: A retired Kelowna lawyer’s insights to mental illness, addiction

Freedom’s Doors advocate Tom Smithwick shares what he has learned from experiences of treatment program clients in new book

Royal LePage Arena was an addition to West Kelowna championed by Len Novakowski. (File photo)
West Kelowna community leader Novakowski dies

Former Westside regional district director Len Novakowski dies after lengthy health battle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Sun Peaks is tracking rising COVID-19 cases. (Kamloops This Week Photo)
Sun Peaks sees spike in COVID-19 cases at end of ski season

On April 9, there were 15 positive cases confirmed.

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Most Read