Ottawa’s Wireless Ads Thought Provoking, But Message Unclear: Focus Groups

Last fall Ottawa struck back against attacks from Canada’s wireless incumbents by launching their own $9 million ad blitz across newspapers, TV and radio. These ads touted wireless competition was coming but as to how that would happen remained unclear.

According to a focus group report by market research firm TNS Canada for Industry Canada, the conclusion was “the campaign succeeded in raising consciousness but didn’t communicate the tangible actions that are being considered by our government,” reports The Canadian Press.

Jake Enright, a spokesman for Industry Minister James Moore, responded yesterday by saying “overall, the report is positive.” He went on to reiterate the attack ads from the Big 3 and also touted the vague goal of Ottawa to “put consumers first”:

“Canada’s largest wireless companies spent millions this past summer mischaracterizing the government’s wireless policies,”


“As a government, we have an obligation to communicate the facts about our policies. These ads provide those facts.”


“From the 700 MHz spectrum auction to tower sharing and capping roaming costs, we are taking concrete actions to put consumers first,”

Federal advertising rules dictate the government must first preview its ad campaigns with focus groups and publicize the results. The TNS Canada study, which cost $45,000, previewed the ads in Chiliwack, B.C., Mississauga, Ontario, and Montreal.

The conclusions were ads raised blood pressure but failed to clarify policy solutions. Overall, TNS Canada says participants in all cities were receptive to Ottawa’s claims Canadians pay some of the highest wireless rates in the world.

Below are examples what of what respondents had to say:

  • “Although the ad is thought-provoking, the objective of more choice, lower prices and better service is not totally clear.”
  • “Makes me angry to know we’ve been paying so much for so long,”
  • “Not clear as to what exactly they would like us to support,”
  • “So I need to know what they are going to do about it,”
  • “This is more a point of view than a policy,”

Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) CEO Bernard Lord said in an interview yesterday it was clear Ottawa’s ads raised the ire of many, since the wireless industry “produces so much”:

“I’m not surprised focus groups would have identified that problem because these people are taxpayers and I don’t think anybody sends money to Ottawa for the federal government to run ads to attack an industry that produces so much,”


“There’s ways for governments to use tax dollars that are very important. I don’t think this is one of them.”

Despite the criticism, Lord praised new ads currently being shown as a big improvement compared to those from the fall.

Recently, Rogers and Bell raised their monthly rates to match Telus, increasing prices overall for Canadian consumers with no explanation why.

Ottawa made it clear the recently completed 700MHz wireless spectrum auction will bring changes to the wireless landscape, but consumers remain skeptical of just how that will happen. Even though Videotron won licenses in Ontario, BC and Alberta, many have questioned whether the carrier will go national after its CEO resigned to join the separatist PQ.


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