Monday, April 10, 2006

poster campaign for canada's military in the u.s. ...

Canada's Boots on the Ground ­ in D.C. Subways
Brian Adeba, April 5th, 2006

An ad campaign for Canada's military, timed to coincide with the change in command in Kandahar, comes to an end in Washington's subways. Lots of straphangers likely saw it, but no one can say there were many congressional leaders among the passersby.

A two-week poster campaign highlighting Canada's role in Afghanistan in subway stations in Washington D.C. came to an end on Monday. The posters, showing an armed Canadian soldier standing alongside some Afghan civilians, were conceptualized at the end of last year and were designed to come out with the change of command in Afghanistan, where Canada took on a key role in the Kandahar region last month.

Lt.-Col. Jamie Robertson, counsellor for military outreach at the Canadian embassy in Washington, says the poster campaign was aimed at educating Americans about Canada's role on the war on terror.

"With our leadership role in Afghanistan, it is important that Americans are aware of what we are doing," he says. "We are doing a lot of heavy lifting too and taking casualties."

The posters, which were designed collaboratively by the Department of National Defence and Canadian embassy officials, were placed in seven subway stations where commuters change trains. Lt.-Col. Robertson says the locations were chosen because they reflect a heavy concentration of people who work in the Defence Department, Capitol Hill and other government departments. "Chances are the majority of the 700,000 people who use the system will probably see one of [the posters] at least."

The posters were specifically designed to market to Americans that Canada and the U.S. are partners in the war on terror, and also to showcase the website, says Lt.-Col. Robertson. The website, which has a link on the Canadian embassy site, is a get-to-know-Canada tool, which also includes a section aimed at dispelling myths about Canada.

Bernard Etzinger, a spokesperson for the Canadian embassy in Washington, says though there's a possibility that the poster campaign may be extended to other cities in the U.S., no definite plans have been decided. He says the posters, which cost $18,000, are part of a larger and ongoing targeted outreach program, which started several months ago.

On March 1, The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper that covers the U.S Congress, reported that the Canadian Embassy was "ramping up its lobbying on Capitol Hill to reverse a years-long cooling in lawmakers' attitudes toward America's northern neighbour."

Mr. Etzinger acknowledged that the embassy has been "making calls on Congressmen in the presence of a uniformed officer."

"We have been making systematic calls on armed services committees in both houses," he says. "The meetings usually start with a discussion on security, but we also talk about the economy and energy."

He also says the embassy has created what it calls a rapid reaction tool to tackle any negative inaccuracies about Canada.

"We respond within 24 hours either privately through a letter or publicly through the media."

With an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people passing through a single station everyday, placing posters in the American capital can ensure that the message reaches a large audience, says Nate Pope, President of NTJ Advertising and Public Relations Inc. in Washington D.C. But he was unable to hazard a guess as to whether many congressional leaders or senior White House officials regularly took the subway.