Elections Canada spending big on social media as part of voting information push

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OTTAWA — Elections Canada is committing to some big social media ad buys as it seeks to inform citizens about how to exercise their democratic rights in the federal election.

Over the last three months, the agency responsible for running national elections has spent more than $150,000 on advertisements on Facebook, about half of that coming since the beginning of the writ period on Sept. 11.

The total spent by Elections Canada on Facebook is more than what the federal New Democrats or prominent third-party group Canada Proud have shelled out for advertising on that platform.

Natasha Gauthier, a spokeswoman for Elections Canada, says the electoral agency plans to spend about 9 per cent of its total election advertising budget on social media alone, and 22 per cent on other digital channels.

Just on social media, that works out to a planned spend of $171,000 on voter information campaign in the pre-writ period that run from June 30 until just over a week ago, and just under $1,100,000 in the formal campaign period.

Gauthier says “it’s just logical” to purchase ads online because Elections Canada recognizes that social media platforms have become important sources of information source for voters.

The agency is working with the gamut of major social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Google, YouTube, and Twitter, which took part in an unpaid initiative to develop a unique emoji for the election campaign.

Most of the currently active paid ads on Facebook are meant to inform Canadians about how to register or modify their registration to vote, as well as reminders of advanced poll dates, election day on Oct. 21 and ways to cast a ballot.

Some recent ads are running with text in different languages: Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, Tagalog, Punjabi and simplified Chinese script.

“We tend to target those in specific market, where we know there are Canadian citizens who are eligible to vote, but English or French may not be their first or even second language,” Gauthier said.

According to Facebook’s online ad library, paid Elections Canada posts with Punjabi and Chinese text are targeted more in Ontario and British Columbia, which have high concentrations of speakers of those languages.

The social media ads are in addition to more traditional advertising in a range of media including TV and radio, print and places like bus shelters.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2019.

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