The Liberal government spent more than $16,000 on developing and placing Snapchat filters in both Canada and the United States to promote the federal government during special events, since its cabinet was sworn in on Nov. 4, 2015.
Seven federal departments, agencies, and Crown corporations reported developing specialized filters for Snapchat—a popular social media platform that allows temporary photo-sharing—between Nov. 4, 2015 and the day the question was asked through an Order Paper on March 21, 2017, for a total cost of about $22,000 CAD.
The total amount spent on Snapchat filters—information requested by Conservative MP Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill, Alta.)—includes some amounts that were reported in U.S. dollars, which The Hill Times converted using today’s exchange rate, as well as some amounts represented in Canadian dollars. The total, once the amounts listed in U.S. dollars have been converted to Canadian dollars, is about $22,000 CAD.
The total cost, without converting the amounts in U.S. dollars—listed in the Order Paper response—to Canadian dollars, is $16,882.70.
Snapchat filters are frames or overlaid images that can be placed on a photo taken with the Snapchat app, and which can be programmed to be location-specific. The location recognition allows attendees at a specific event or in a particular area to apply the filter to their personal photos, which can then be shared with friends who use the app.
It’s not clear from the government’s response if each event had one specific filter only, or if multiple filters were made available to users at that location. However, in total, there were more than 6,712 reported uses of the filters.
The biggest spender on developing Snapchat filters was Canadian Heritage, which spent a total of $13,365.93 USD on developing filters in order to build “awareness and heighten visibility around the year-long 150th celebration.”
Canadian Heritage spent $10,000 USD on Jan. 1, 2017, to have a Snapchat filter available at the NHL 100 Event at the BMO Field in Toronto, Ont. In total, the department reported the filter was used 859 times, and as a result, received 43,086 views.
The rest of the department’s Snapchat spending went into creating filters for New Year’s Eve celebrations in 19 major cities across Canada on Dec. 31, 2016, for varying costs between $19.12 USD in St. John’s, N.L., and $536.43 USD in the National Capital Region. The government spent $214.08 USD to provide a filter for Yellowknife which eight people used, and was viewed 361 times. Similarly, in Iqaluit, the government spent $114.10 USD on a filter that three people used, and was viewed 134 times.
The most popular use of the filter was in Toronto, where 953 people used it and was viewed 37,031 times.
Global Affairs Canada was the second most prolific user of Snapchat filters, and reported four separate uses of them in the United States.
The federal Canadian government spent $300 USD to have a filter available at the Canadian embassy in Washington for the April 29, 2016 White House Correspondent’s Dinner that was used 425 times and viewed 27,149 times.
Another $200 USD was spent to develop a filter for Canada Day celebrations on July 1, which was used 100 times and viewed 7,499 times.
It cost the department $125 USD to have a filter available on U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration day, Jan. 20, 2017. That filter was used 219 times, and viewed 11,054 times. A number of top Canadian officials were in Washington that day to partake in the pomp and circumstance around the inauguration, including Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.); her parliamentary secretary on Canada-U.S. relations Andrew Leslie (Orléans, Ont.); Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.); Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre, Man.); and interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose (Sturgeon River-Parkland, Alta.).
Global Affairs Canada, in the response to the question, said the Snapchat filters were used “to enhance the guests’ experience and allow them to include Canadian content when sharing photos on social media from an event at the embassy.”
Another $377 USD went to “raise awareness of Canada’s, and in particular HMCS Calgary’s, participation in the San Francisco’s Fleet Week festivities for 2016.” This filter was launched on Oct. 5, 2016 and was used 731 times, and viewed 8,000 times.
Employment and Social Development Canada spent a total of $85.93 USD on three separate filters. The first was launched Nov. 1, 2016 at Carleton University for the National Youth Forum consultations with Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities Carla Qualtrough (Delta, B.C.) on the planned new accessibility legislation, and it cost $5 USD.
The department also spent $68.01 USD on a filter that launched Nov. 18, 2016 at the C.D. Howe Building for the Hackathon to address homelessness; and $12.92 USD on a filter available at the Canadian War Museum for an International Day of Persons with Disabilities event that Ms. Qualtrough and Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr (Calgary Centre, Alta.) were present at, on Nov. 30, 2016.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation, an arm’s-length agency, spent $58.85 CAD for a filter available to users in the Greater Toronto Area during the foundation’s 2016 National Conference. It was used 59 times and viewed 176 times.
The Canadian Museum of Nature dropped $26.57 CAD on a filter that was available for attendees of the Nature Nocturne event at the museum, which began on Feb. 24, 2017, and lasted until the early morning of Feb. 25, 2017. The specific uses of this filter were not reported, but it was viewed 6,468 times.
Environment and Climate Change Canada put $18.42 into developing a Snapchat filter internally to promote the National Youth Summit on Climate Change that happened in Ottawa on Nov. 23, 2016. The filter was available within the vicinity of the Sir John A. Macdonald Building on Wellington Street, and was used 31 times, and viewed 2,671 times.
Lastly, Farm Credit Canada used a filter. which it reports had no development costs — as the filters were created in-house — but does note that $2,825 CAD was spent on a “placement cost” for the filters, which The Hill Times has factored in to the overall total.
These filters, which the agency notes were available in both official languages, were available on Canada’s Agriculture Day, Feb. 16, 2017. The filters were targeted in downtown Ottawa and at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture, in Truro, N.S.
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