Yanks may get crack at gov’t biz

Continental free trade could have far-reaching implications for federal government advertising in Canada, although there seems to be little fear among Canadian-owned agencies they will be trampled by u.s. giants wanting some of the action from the country's largest advertiser.A proposed...

Continental free trade could have far-reaching implications for federal government advertising in Canada, although there seems to be little fear among Canadian-owned agencies they will be trampled by u.s. giants wanting some of the action from the country’s largest advertiser.

A proposed agreement by Canadian, Mexican and u.s. negotiators would mean each country has to treat the other two’s ad agencies as if they were no different from their own.

John Burghardt, president of Burghardt Wolowich Crunkhorn Kibble in Toronto, agrees going up against five competitors instead of 20 is easier, but he says he is not worried.

‘In terms of quality, I still think we can beat them [u.s.-owned agencies],’ Burghardt says.

Should continental free trade become a done deal with the advertising clause intact – by no means certain – Burghardt also agrees there will be more u.s. business here choosing u.s. agencies more often.

‘It’s happened for years, and has happened more recently to us with Castrol Oil,’ Burghardt says.

About three months ago his firm lost that account to u.s.-owned Scali McCabe Sloves, something he calls a ‘New York decision.’

Frank Palmer, president of Canadian-owned Palmer Jarvis Advertising in Vancouver, is bullish on his agency’s chances.

‘It doesn’t bother me,’ Palmer says. ‘We’ve been competing for years.’

As Palmer points out, the ownership rules for agencies wanting federal or provincial accounts differ from place to place.

He notes in British Columbia, where the government has no ownership rules, his agency routinely competes against u.s.-owned shops.

In Ontario, agencies wanting business from the government must be 100% Canadian-owned. For the federal government, that requirement drops to majority ownership.

Martin Kingston, president of Ambrose Carr Linton Kelly in Toronto, thinks continental free trade for agencies is alright.

‘It’s a positive thing, to tell you the truth,’ Kingston says.

He says in the real world there is competition, and adds the good agencies will survive no matter what and can go after business in the U.S. DC