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Navigator establishes truly national footprint, with new Montreal office and expanded services in both official languages

TORONTO, Nov. 10, 2016 — Navigator Ltd. (‘Navigator’), Canada’s leading high-stakes public strategy and communications firm, today announced the opening of a new office in Montreal, Quebec. Building on recent growth, this new office and expanded team establishes Navigator as a truly national and fully bilingual Canadian advisory firm.

‘Our firm’s footprint in Canada is now truly national,’ said Jaime Watt, Executive Chairman of Navigator. ‘Navigator’s existing team of highly-skilled professionals will be joined by proven and fully-bilingual colleagues in Quebec, further enhancing our ability to meet clients’ needs and deliver results across Canada and in international markets.’

Navigator’s new Montreal office will be led by Philippe Gervais, a seasoned public affairs professional with more than 25 years of experience in strategic communications, government advocacy and public policy.

‘Navigator has long had a reputation for offering exceptional client-based advisory services when it matters most,’ said Gervais. ‘I’m not only looking forward to bringing Navigator’s distinct skill set to the Quebec marketplace, but also to providing new and expanded service offerings in a unique and oftentimes challenging political environment for Navigator’s existing and future clients.’ In addition to Montreal, Navigator has offices in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Ottawa and London, UK.

How Facebook Dominated the 2016 Campaign

November 8 was unforgettable for all the reasons we’ve all been talking about since. But it was also history in the making for reasons beyond the obvious. For the first time ever, political ad spending on Facebook surpassed spending on Google’s search and display network. We’re talking to the tune of $1 billion. That’s up three-fold from 2012.

For a guy who has spent his entire professional career in digital advocacy and political campaigns, this shift is a watershed moment. In previous campaigns, I would agonize with the bright minds on my team about all the search terms for which we wanted our issue-based ads to appear, and for which we felt we had the best chance of converting searchers into donors or volunteers. In many ways, search ads were—and still are—the perfect vehicle for this kind of targeting. You will likely convert someone who is searching terms related to a compelling policy you’re selling if your ad has the right message, if you’re landing page makes a compelling case, and if you perfectly seize the ‘now’ moment of search. So long as search traffic accounts for two-thirds of Internet traffic, any good digital advocacy campaign will make use of this amazing platform.

However, we should pause just to consider how much of Facebook’s ad platform has advanced in recent years. Just as important, we should consider what it means to run a proper, well-executed, and strategic advocacy campaign in this era. Consider this: despite claiming that data is an’overrated‘ tool, Trump’s campaign ran ads on Facebook that drove users to no less than 100,000 unique landing pages in August. Each landing page was micro-targeted for a different voter segment.

Think about this.

*One-hundred thousand unique landing pages.*

The next time your ad agency comes to you with a plan to build 10 landing pages, using a set-and-forget placement strategy, give them this number and ask for a better plan. This is what it takes to cut it on digital. This is what it takes to run effective advocacy campaigns online. The people we need to reach live their lives glued to their devices, looking for—and hoping to be served—content that is hyper-relevant to them, at that very moment.

To turbocharge your strategy, you need data. You need good data. And this is where America has always been great (if you’re a data-science nerd). Trump’s data provider reportedly supplied the President-elect with 220 million records, each with no less than 4,000 data points. Yes. Four. Thousand. We’re talking voter registration records, shopping patterns, ethnographic details, household composition, etc.

Now, imagine you’re armed with all that information. It won’t do you much good if you can’t reach these people with a message that will resonate with them. That, of course, is where Facebook comes in. In Canada, you can hit no less than 22 million monthly active users. In the US, you can hit three out of four Americans. All from one platform. And guess what? You can segment each of your ads to serve creative and copy that speaks to those individual interests, knowing you’re hitting it out of the park with your accuracy rate. With access to this kind of reach and data, it’s like having the ability to poll every single voter. Facebook is making every data nerd’s dreams come true (and making a killing at it). In the process, it’s helping campaigns realize efficiencies in other verticals. You can test and optimize a message online, see what works, and apply those changes to your call scripts and door-knocking scripts. The same applies in a private-sector context. You can use what is practically the world’s largest focus group to assess, in real-time, which message works for which demographic target.

It boggles my mind that in this kind of era some folks balk at the idea of shifting their ad spend so that digital accounts for the largest share of the ad buy. The $1 billion figure I talked about at the top? Impressive, right? Yes. But it only accounts for 10% of all political advertising. Ten percent? Think about your daily habits. Would you say you only spend 10 percent of your time with digital devices? I’m going to wager not. In a world where most of us are glued to our devices all day long, how is it that digital only accounts for a fragment of all ad spending?

The power of digital advertising lies in its unprecedented efficiency. You can reach more people for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. You can reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time. And you can measure those results with pinpoint accuracy (mostly). In a political campaign, the savings can make a huge difference in freeing up resources to focus on swing states or to pull votes. In Canadian campaigns, with our ridiculously low spending limits, the difference is a game-changer. In fact, I think we’re probably two cycles away from seeing the first digital-only political campaign, at least from an ad-spend perspective.

Of course, at the end of the day, the best targeting in the world simply can’t replace a good message. And it certainly can’t replace the power of word-of-mouth advocacy — which is why even the most perfect digital strategy can’t save a hapless, tone-deaf message. However, serving as a listening post, it can certainly help you avoid a tone-deaf message. In fact, a good digital campaign will give you early warning signs if you’re on the wrong path. So, don’t shy away from shifting more resources to digital. You may realize efficiencies while finding the message that compels action amongst your target audiences.

Hillary Clinton’s emails reveal politicians are ordinary, flawed people just like us

Politics is not so much about sweeping conspiracies or grand policy debates. Rather, at its very core, politics is rooted in its humanity.

It was in March of 2015 that the New York Times first broke the story that Hillary Clinton had been using a private email server, igniting a furor that would eventually help sink her bid for the presidency of the United States.

Opponents pounced, calling her behaviour irresponsible, unreasonable and borderline treasonous. Pundits pored over the contents of the emails, fixated on uncovering any angle that could fill column inches or justify a CNN chyron blaring ‘Breaking News.’ Donald Trump led thousands of people chanting ‘Lock her up!’, claiming that her transgression had compromised American safety.

For decades, conspiracy theories and rumours have swirled around the Clintons. At various times, they have been accused of being responsible for 48 different murders, of having a fake marriage based on political ambition, of regularly using body doubles, and of acting as agents for foreign governments in return for cash. The rumours and theories have generated tens of millions of clicks in strange corners of the Internet.

In turn, those clicks have fueled the outrage of citizens who were positive that the nation was being taken advantage of by two Machiavellian political actors the likes of which had not been seen since Kevin Spacey was president in House of Cards.

So it must have surprised many when the tens of thousands of emails that were released revealed what all those who work in politics know: politics is not so much about sweeping conspiracies involving Russian spies, or about grand policy debates.

Rather, at its very core, politics is rooted in its humanity. It features less than perfect people making less than perfect decisions. It is, first and foremost, an exercise centred around the small, and often petty, dramas of human life.

The so-called scandalous Hillary Clinton emails were actually emails filled with pressing issues like compliments on her favourite coat, how to turn on NPR while on Long Island, and repeated requests for cold iced tea.

It’s tempting to apply a filter of nefarious intent to the things politicians do. The stakes of the decisions they make, of course, can be enormous; the ramifications with us for decades.

But any political staffer will tell you that rather than the fantastical House of Cards, life in politics is eerily similar to Veep, the brilliant, cynical comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the powerless-yet-overreaching vice president of the United States. As her ever-weary chief of staff once sighed: ‘We all know the White House would work so much better if there wasn’t a president; but there is, so we work around that.’

The reality of politics is a lot like that.

There has been much ink spilled in Canada about various governments having a deep-seated need to remake the nation in their image. If one was to believe Twitter, one would have thought Stephen Harper’s government was part of a secret world order.

But ask a former politician and they will tell you that any grand plan they had prior to gaining public office came to a screeching halt hours after they are sworn in, replaced by the all-consuming need to keep the trains running on time. Strategic thinking takes a back seat to just keeping your head above water and your government out of scandal.

And, just when you think you’ve finally reached a point where you can begin to plan, calamity strikes. A forgetful bureaucrat leaves confidential documents lying at the entrance of the department. A staffer falls for a reporter and accidentally spills the beans on a big story. A natural disaster or a terrorist attack takes place.

Politics is fraught with that sort of unpredictable but powerful distraction.

And then there is just the sheer volume of information that comes your way. On the one hand, there’s more information than any person, or even team of people, can reasonably keep up with but on the other often less than the media knows. To wit, Hillary’s concerned email to a staffer questioning whether a cabinet meeting was taking place and why she hadn’t been invited (she had read about it on Twitter to her dismay).

None of this is to say that politicians enter office without a plan, or without ideological principles that guide them in the decisions they are confronted with every day. Over a long period of time, a governing ethos can indeed begin to turn the enormous ship we call government.

But government is run first and foremost by flawed people just like us. The next time a dramatic shift in government policy occurs, and opponents take to social media to decry the strategic principles behind it, take a moment to recall Clinton’s aide who, the hacked emails revealed, spent three painstaking hours one Saturday afternoon trying to teach the erstwhile President of the United States how to use a fax machine.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist.

To align or not align

This offers an interesting place for Trudeau and Trump to align, especially because Trump has long been a supporter of an end to the drug wars.
—David Woolley

Allie, Colin and David talk about the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, Trudeau’s comments on negotiating NAFTA with Trump, and the opioid crisis in Canada.

How Donald Trump rewrote the election handbook

Trump’s larger-than-life rallies, his brilliant use of social media, and his ability to churn headlines touched more voters than any army of door-knockers could ever hope for.

Thisarticle first appeared in the Toronto Star on November 20, 2016.


The sky hasn’t fallen.

It has been nearly two weeks since the U.S. presidential election; the stock market is coasting along, the nuclear arsenal has yet to be launched, Americans are still going to work every day and the President-elect continues his passion for unfiltered tweeting.

Trump’s campaign’s successful unorthodoxy demonstrated there is no longer a cookie-cutter formula to winning political campaigns.

This success will have meaningful implications for upcoming election cycles. Trump’s winning campaign, which will be deconstructed for years, has fundamentally altered who is able to run for public office, who votes in elections and what matters during campaigns.

Cable news commentators spent weeks analyzing, prodding and lambasting not only Trump’s debate performances but his whole campaign. While they laughed at his Republican convention, and criticized his lack of policy chops, Trump’s voters didn’t care.

Trump threw out the campaign rule book because he had never read the campaign rule book. And, in doing so, created at least three new rules for elections to come.

First, the person with the best ground game no longer necessarily wins. Second, television advertising is no longer the key to success. Third, authenticity no longer matters.

Throughout the campaign, Trump insisted he did not need to rely on traditional campaign tactics to win. Hillary Clinton used the data-driven, on-the-ground machine that propelled President Barack Obama to two straight electoral victories. Trump, meanwhile, pointed to the overwhelming nomination victory he achieved with a relatively small team on a tight budget, and he stuck to that strategy for the election campaign.

Defying all convention, Trump registered new voters in record numbers. Since 2012, Republicans in Florida alone registered more than 350,000 more voters than the Democrats. Trump’s larger-than-life rallies, his brilliant use of social media, and his ability to churn headlines touched more voters on a sustained basis than any army of door-knockers could ever hope for.

Nationally, Clinton had more than twice the number of field offices Trump had — 489 to 207 — and three times Trump’s presence in North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado, yet won only Colorado. In crucial battleground states, the Democratic National Committee had the edge over the Republicans. The Democrats employed five times more staff and organizers in Florida, seven times more in Pennsylvania, and an eye-popping 26 times more in Ohio.

Second, Trump campaigned in a different way. Instead of spending millions of dollars on television advertising, he focused on old-school rallies, his message seeping through the free media coverage and his often-ridiculous Twitter posts.

Never before, in a presidential race, has there been such a disparity in the amount of money spent on television advertising. But this advantage did nothing to move independent and undecided voters to Clinton. Rather, it was Trump’s strategy of earned media, alongside an active and well-run social media presence that was most effective.

At the end of the campaign, Trump had raised $258 million, which was only a bit more than the Clinton campaign’s spending on TV ads alone, and far behind Clinton’s total spending of $502 million.

Some pundits have claimed it was Trump’s masterful use of social media that pushed him over the top. Rather, it was the combination of earned media, social media and rock-concert-sized rallies that defeated a stunned Clinton machine in both swing states and traditionally Democratic U.S. Rust Belt states.

Finally, rather than strive for authenticity, he played a consistent role just as he had done on his reality TV shows,

The Apprentice


The Celebrity Apprentice


Campaign professionals strive to create an authentic candidate who people can relate to; one with a back story that captures the essence of people’s aspirations.

This was never going to happen with Trump, an unusually privileged son of a businessman, a billionaire who hasn’t paid federal taxes in years.

But for what Trump lacked in authenticity, he made up for with consistency. His contrivance was perfectly constant, across all media, whether it was a major network interview, a stadium appearance in front of 10,000 adoring fans or a late-night Tweet.

This bombastic, entertaining and egotistical character had a message. And he knew it. He stuck to it. And his supporters latched on. And he won.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist.