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.

Just Posted

Roaring start carries Vernon Panthers to victory

The Panthers defeated the Holy Cross Crusaders 40-0 in exhibition play Friday

Cheers of support meet Cops for Kids riders at Vernon stop

The riders have one more leg to go in their 1,000-kilometre journey

New flyer machine installment underway at Morning Star

Our warehouse will soon be pumping out flyers faster than ever

Cyclists ride from Vernon to Eagle Bay in support of Rwandan schools

The 10th annual Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda has raised more than $100,000 in donations and counting

Update: Father calls for better drug recognition after 8-year-old overdoses at Okanagan school

The young child ingested an unknown substance Wednesday at a Kelowna school

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Coming Home: Penticton fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

World champion snowmobile racer seeks public’s help after dirt bikes were stolen in Penticton

The bikes, valued at $25,000 and $11,000, were stolen from the back of a locked truck on Sept. 12

Newcomer Ferland lines up with sniper Pettersson as Vancouver Canucks camp opens

Ferland provides more depth and a scoring threat up front, Pettersson says

Intelligence official charged seemed to be ‘exemplar of discretion’: UBC professor

Professor Paul Evans says he served on Cameron Ortis’s doctoral dissertation committee

Penticton teen cyclist allegedly struck by black Ford truck resulting in hematoma

The incident occurred at the intersection of Westminster Avenue West and Power Street

LyleXOX launches first solo exhibition at Liquidity Wines in OK Falls

The Canadian artist has amassed thousands of fans for his beautiful self-portraits using found items

EDITORIAL: This is our election

It is up to the voting public to identify the issues in the upcoming federal election

Most Read