If the campaign comes to you, come to Maclean’s


UPDATED with non-trivial new information…see bottom of post…

One of the things Maclean’s wants to do during the next election better than we ever have done before is to keep track of where ads actually run. This is based on two common practices of every party during recent elections, practices we expect them all, especially the Harper Tories, to ramp up dramatically:

(1) Announcing ads that they do not, in fact, pay to place commercially;

(2) Running ads, especially in selected local markets, without announcing them or showing them to reporters beforehand.

The first tactic is slightly sneaky, the second minimally so. Both are legitimate campaign tools. The goal of announcing but not placing, of course, is to get a free-media bounce out of all the credulous teevee and print coverage, without blowing any of your campaign budget. The goal of placing but not announcing is to avoid the attention of reporters who work for fancy news organizations in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. The Tories in ’06 ran pots of “negative” ads against the Liberals in local markets before they, the Tories, ran national ads warning the Liberals would “go neg.”

I must emphasize that it is perfectly legitimate for all campaigns to use both of these tactics, one or neither. But I must also insist that we have a right to follow these shadow wars if we can. Our hunch here at Maclean’s is that you can help us.

Let us begin with this ad, which Jason Kenney said in a Sunday news conference the Conservatives will run on the video screens of selected gas stations. It is tremendously clever and it’s getting lots of free media (I just gave it some coverage right here, for instance). And I suspect the Conservatives will buy space at gas stations and in more traditional media, because they have money.

But let’s find out. If you see this Conservative ad or one like it, whether at a gas station or during the commercial time on television or radio, log it here in the comments space or email me through the link below. Simply in a sentence or two, no more, please tell us where you saw the ad (physical location if it’s a gas station; city, station and show if it was broadcast); and what the ad’s message was. Please don’t log “free-media” appearances, such as newscasts or journo panels that cover or discuss the ad. What we’re trying to measure here is the geographical distribution of paid ad buys.

We hope to do more of this during a campaign. We have contracted Stéphane Dion to make sure we have plenty of time to work out the details. (Just kidding.) Consider this the shakedown cruise for what should prove to be an interesting new campaign coverage tool.

Thanks in advance for your help

UPDATE, Monday morning: Kady O’Malley discovers that the gas-station ad network that was supposedly going to carry the Tory ads is… not going to carry the Tory ads. No wonder in the comment thread below, nobody’s seen one yet…

SUPER-FILL’ER-UPDATE: Ryan Sparrow is telling Kady he was misquoted. We are waiting to hear which gas-station ad network will carry the Tory ads.


If the campaign comes to you, come to Maclean’s

  1. The “fuelcasts” would be a fine target for a boycott.

  2. Whatever. First we just want to find them.

  3. Talk to the MacLeans techno poobahs about setting up a wiki. you may have want to require registration for editing but that way it becomes more of a living document instead of a list of comments one has to plow through to see if the ad i saw is already listed. In the meantime that will definitely work though. Do you just want tv ads? what about internet usage of the video? Hey Tim Hortons has those fancy video screens now and they’re just begging for some messages from strong-leader-Harper. Oh oh, maybe they can show Peter Van Loan responding to every question from Mr Rae by talking about Ontario in 1993. Boo yah!

  4. Isn’t it kinda odd that the feds will collect fuel taxes off everyone filling up at the pump, while at the same time extolling the evil Liberals for a carbon tax?

    Does. Not. Compute.

    Oh, and definitely set up the wiki thing. This comments idea re: fuel ads will not work.

  5. You might want to check with your legal team re the responsibilities of keeping a list. Once the boycott gets going, having a station listed incorrectly may have consequences. Since the Steyn thing is over, your lawyers are all probably sitting around doing nothing, right?

  6. We’re gonna see what we can trick up for a generl election. For now, this thread will do nd the rule is: if it seems to you that the Conservative Party of Canada probably paid money so you could see the ad, tell us what you saw. Free media is important too, but for another day. What we are trying to track is paid media.

  7. Threatening to boycott a venue for their accepting political advertising is indescribably petty.

    Pressed gas station owners accepting another source of revenue in a harsh economic climate are committing a wrong worthy of political revenge? Really? Is that really the kind of attitude you’d like the LPC to be associated with?

  8. Paul, You may want to contact your Maclean’s ad dept. They must have access to professional tracking services which will give you accurate information as to when and where these ads are running.

  9. Really Denton?

    You think the gas station owners are getting the advertising dollars? Think again.

    As for the boycott. It’s a great idea. This is the Harper government that campaigned on “no GST on fuel if gas rose above 85 cents a litre”. Lying sacks of maneure.

  10. Paul Denton said…

    “Pressed gas station owners accepting another source of revenue in a harsh economic climate”…

    Last time I checked the oil companies have beat their own profit records every year for a long long time… I’ll start the gas station pity party if I ever see one go out of business.

  11. Might I suggest that all updates regarding “rules” be added to the main body of the article, and any comment (including this one) which does not specifically mention an actual ad be removed?

  12. I’m gonna give everyone a couple of hours to vent, although as one rude fellow has already found out, personal attacks against others in the thread won’t be tolerated. Then I’ll probably houseclean as per Mike T.’s suggestion.

  13. so Paul, let me get this straight…if I understand this, when we see an ad we report it here? Jayzus people, too funny…

  14. Radio Ad. CD 98.9, a local radio station. Did you know that Stephane Dion is not a leader? Shocking.

  15. Looks like the ad company(ies?) is quailing already; when will we find out who’s running the ads? Good work! Harper is trying to bury the in and out scheme, but this go-round the people are watching and reporting on ads aired. A very good plan! Why only Ontario? Or is this a trial balloon to see how far “Oily the Splot” can carry Harper’s and his oil friends’ fear of Dion?

  16. The Boycott is a success before it has even started! Lets see if ANYONE is willing to run these ads on their gas pumps.

  17. Suggest you give readers a more boxy formula to follow, as Sophie forgot to give the city.


    Then get someone to put them into a spreadsheet for easier analysis.

  18. Ah, you don’t suppose Wells is trying to make fun of people here? Trying to show overreaction or something?

    You know he does work in mysterious ways.

    …just wondering

  19. Fuelcast, Spacenet Team Up
    Satellite services boost content delivery to stations, c-stores


    MCLEAN, Va. — Spacenet Inc., a provider of satellite networking services for enterprise and government, said that it is teaming with Fuelcast Media Network Inc. to offer new digital media services to gas stations and convenience stores using satellite technology.

    Fuelcast uses Spacenet’s satellite services to support its digital private network currently used by more than 500 stores in North America. Fuelcast offers media solutions to petroleum retailers worldwide by providing video information and entertainment to motorists fueling vehicles at the pump.


  20. I like how the second of the English radio ads reminds people that Stephane Dion supposedly called for the invasion of Pakistan.

    It reminded me that Stephen Harper called for the invasion of Iraq.

    Likewise its criticism of Stephane Dion for changing his mind on a carbon tax: it reminded me that Stephen Harper ‘changed his mind’ on keeping an $800 million equalization promise to Saskatchewan.

  21. Methinks Stephen is still missing the point….

  22. If people are planning to boycott gas stations that run this ad will they also boycott McLean’s if the Conservatives purchase ad space in their magazine?
    Just asking…

  23. James Curran, who was investigated (and later cleared) for fraud on the EDA board of which he is President, is being very deceitful when he says:

    “This is the Harper government that campaigned on ‘no GST on fuel if gas rose above 85 cents a litre’. Lying sacks of maneure (sic).”

    He fails to mention this was in the 2004 campaign and that Canadians didn’t vote for it. It was promptly dropped as party policy after the loss as the party tried to come up with a winning set of policies – the ones Canadians votes for in 2006.

  24. No surprise. The Libs love to censor things.

  25. I so look forward to seeing these on Gas Pumps. Forget Boycott, I’ll shop at gas stations showing these ads.

  26. Ontario is a Nanny State. There is a reason why companies are fleeing Ontario in rapid numbers. Dalton McNutty and the Liberal gang.

  27. Oh goody, a preview of the coming election campaign: Macleans will not spend resources on covering the issues, we’ll be treated to a weekly review of the ads that were announced and didn’t run, followed by a recap of all the advertising that did run. Can hardly wait!

  28. Isn’t Toronto violating Canadians’ rights to free speech by limiting anyone’s right to send out a message, no matter what the medium used?
    Of course, given the socialist government of Toronto, what else would you expect from them?

  29. So, do we report Liberal TV & radio ads here too? Or do those go to the National Post?

    Just askin’…

  30. During an election campaign, as I already said, Jim, we hope to track all parties’ ads. I did not think the concept would be hard to follow, but it has been a surprising day.

  31. Deb, on the other hand, has us figured. You’re right, Deb. That’s *precisely* how we plan to cover the election. In 2006 we gave the campaign about 10 pages a week and capped it with a 24,000-word account of how the winner got elected. This year, with a larger editorial budget, bigger reporting staff, Andrew Coyne and the certain knowledge, from 2006, that serious political coverage increases circulation, we plan to ignore the issues and dive up our own asses for kicks. I don’t know how you figured it out. We just can’t keep any secrets from you guys.

  32. Radio ad at 6am on June 10th, Kiss-FM Ottawa. what a way to wake up!

  33. capped it with a 24,000-word account of how the winner got elected.

    It took 24 000 words to explain that?

    …sorry, but I think Deb’s right here. You “journalists” might find this fascinating, but as you should know, close to half of all Canadians (the ones who increasingly don’t vote and don’t seem to care) don’t find it all exactly riveting.

  34. City: Toronto
    Station: 99.9fm
    Date: june 14
    Time: 1:30pm and 5:20pm

    Station: 106.9
    Date: june 16
    Time: 7:50am

  35. Thanks Lauren…

  36. Another radio ad, on the same station. By the by, did you know that Dion is not a leader?
    City:Eeyou QC
    Station: CD 98.9
    Date: June 16
    Time: 7:40 am

  37. CHUM 104.9FM Toronto approx 7am this morning.

    (What can I say, my wife likes their prattling… the CHUM gorms not the Harper phoney-phone-ins)

  38. oops – that’s 104.5. Content was a fake phone in about the “Liberal Tax Trick”

  39. City:Ottawa (Gatineau)
    Station: 94.9
    Date: june 14
    Time: 9:55 AM

  40. Tax on Everything ad.

    Toronto, MIX99.9, June 25, 6:15 am.

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