Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Conservative Government's Canadian Energy Ads Fail to Impress in United States

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Conservative Government's Canadian Energy Ads Fail to Impress in United States

Article excerpt

Canadian energy ads fail to impress in U.S.

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OTTAWA - Efforts by the Conservative government to sell Americans on the virtues of Canadian natural resources failed to impress those south of the border, according to a new report, and even left them puzzled over assertions that Canada is America's best friend.

A government-commissioned Harris-Decima pre-testing report on a U.S. advertising blitz by Natural Resources Canada earlier this year found that focus groups in Washington, D.C., were befuddled by the campaign's original tagline -- "America's best friend is America's best energy solution."

"Few would immediately assume this means Canada, despite certainly considering Canada to be a good friend," says the $58,000, taxpayer-funded report, posted Wednesday on Library and Archives Canada.

"Some indicated that claiming you are one's best friend comes across as something one does when one is about to ask for a huge favour."

Others took issue with the word "solution" because it suggested "America had a problem that needed solving." In a similar vein, "virtually all objected to the reference to Canada's ban on dirty coal as it seemed to imply that Canada is doing more than the U.S.," the report noted.

Budgetary estimates show that $16.5 million has been set aside by Natural Resources Canada for advertising in 2013-14 to highlight what the Harper government calls responsible resource development.

The U.S. advertising offensive has included promotions and ads in influential publications and a website for American viewers, gowithcanada.ca. The ads shine a job-friendly and environmentally sensitive light on a cross-section of Canadian resource industries.

The Conservative government has spent years trying to convince Americans of the benefits of Canadian energy and Canada's environmental record, particularly relating to Alberta's oilsands and the Keystone XL pipeline. U.S. President Barack Obama is set to make a decision on the fate of the TransCanada project early next year.

But Americans in six focus groups in Washington, D.C., told Harris-Decima researchers that the ads, launched in the spring during the heat of the Keystone battle, could be "greatly improved" and lacked a cohesive and direct message to the American public.

Harris-Decima interviewed people over three rounds, starting in March and ending a month later -- members of the general public and so-called "opinion elites" who are political news aficionados.

"The advertising as it stands faces some challenges in conveying a consistently heard and appreciated message and could be greatly improved with some specific adjustments to tone and content," the report found.

Some respondents felt the ads should be more direct about advocating in favour of Keystone XL.

"Based on their assumption that the ads related to a Canadian pipeline, opinion elites were fairly uniform in stating a preference for seeing mention of 'pipeline' in the copy and perhaps the imagery," the report stated. …

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