Vendre le gouvernement, comme on vend Coke ou Nike

Dans l’article qui suit, Bob Cox, l’éditeur du Winnipeg Free Press met en lumière certaines questions entourant la publicité gouvernementale au Canada. Il est d’avis que les gouvernements d’aujourd’hui ont abandonné la publicité d’information dans les journaux et sont passés aux campagnes télévisuelles qui mettent l’accent sur la « marque » plutôt que de renseigner les contribuables.

L’éditorial est d’abord paru dans l’édition du 9 mai 2013 du Winnipeg Free Press. Les membres peuvent republier l’article en citant l’auteur et la source originale de publication.

Stephen Harper finally conceded something this week that people in the newspaper business have been saying for a long time – federal government advertising is no longer about informing citizens.

Maybe it’s quaint to think that government advertising should be limited to spending taxpayers’ dollars telling people the details of programs and services. But I still cling to this idea.
Not so for the Prime Minister.

He defended more than $100 million in advertising his government has done to promote itself, saying it helps Canadian confidence.

"Canadians understand and are very proud of the fact that Canada’s economy has performed so much better than other developed countries during these challenging times," Harper said in the House of Commons when pressed by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau was questioning government plans to extend to 2016 the feel-good campaign centred on the "economic action plan" campaign.

You know the ads – the ones that pop up over and over on ultra-Canadian programming like hockey broadcasts and Murdoch Mysteries. Smiling, happy people don hard hats and march off to work, all thanks to Stephen Harper’s government.

They point to the "Action Plan" website. It carries a Government of Canada tag, but you would be forgiven for thinking it was put out by the Conservative Party.

The main headline after the recent federal budget: "Harper Government Focused on Jobs, Growth And Long-Term Prosperity With Economic Action Plan."

The site introduces us to such such people as "Sandy," who, despite being an animated, fictional character, "is relieved to hear that the Government of Canada wants to help caregivers like her…" By the end of the video on the Family Caregiver Tax Credit, Sandy has saved enough money to buy her animated mother an animated walker. This kind of advertising does not create work for Canadian actors, either.

There does not seem to be a link to the latest report from the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer, which says that, far from increasing employment, there will be 67,000 fewer jobs in Canada by 2017 than there would have been without the measures in the budget.

Make no mistake about who makes advertising decisions in the federal government. That is done at the cabinet table, by Stephen Harper and his ministers.

They’re the ones who have treated us to such federal feel-good advertising as the TV commercials on the War of 1812-14, the equivalent of the British government spending money to commemorate the Napoleonic Wars.

I’ll state my bias clearly. The government does Economic Action Plan advertising primarily on TV and radio. It has almost eliminated its spending on newspaper advertising in recent years. Government advertising that contains program information and details works well in newspapers. Brand advertising is more often seen on TV.

But I would not be writing this if the government had simply r