Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Do Mystery Ads In Ontario Promote Mind-Control Or Education?

This from OMMA Behavioral online. Interesting campaign:
, Monday, June 16, 2008

Earlier this year, Ontario residents were puzzled by a series of outdoor ads that appeared to promote a drug that altered the thoughts of teenagers.

"When Amy started thinking for herself, we had to nip it in the bud with Obay," read one ad. "My son had ideas of his own. Obay put a stop to that," read another.

Creative showed a smiling, happy family, and a bottle of Obay pills.

The teaser ads ran for two weeks, causing local bloggers to speculate their origin. Theories ranged from Obay being an actual mind-controlling drug created by a pharmaceutical company to Obay being the handiwork of Scientologists.

The ads originated from an unlikely source, Colleges Ontario, an advocacy group that represents the 24 publicly funded colleges in the province.

According to Malcolm Roberts, principal at Smith Roberts, the creative and media agency behind the campaign, the objective was to change the way parents viewed college.

"Colleges Ontario asked us to help them change the public perception that college is a lesser alternative to university. Many parents are pushing their kids into a university education when, in fact their children would be happier with a college degree in a subject area that actually appealed to them. This campaign was designed to get parents to take notice, and re-think their attitudes toward colleges," said Roberts.

Following the teaser ads was a month-long "revelation" campaign. Original ads were covered by crumpled, yellow pages explaining the rouse.

"Luckily, Obay isn't real. Sure, you want what's best for your kids, but when it comes to post-secondary education, pushing them to do what you want isn't right. Explore all the options at," reads an ad for the second phase of the campaign.

The campaign delivered 50 million impressions in six weeks and serves as the beginning of a multiyear campaign.

"All 24 colleges have fully supported releasing funds for the next phase of the campaign," said Roberts. "We knew from the outset that this was going to be a long-term strategy, possibly up to five years. You can't change years of ingrained attitudes overnight."

Too bad there isn't a pill for that.


What do you think? Effective or manipulative?


....J.Michael Robertson said...

I'm trying to think like a Canadian. So there's a clear hierarchy in higher education in Canada, and some parents are pressuring their kids to go "to university" even if they can only get into majors that the kids aren't interested in? Exactly what are the nuances of the situation that one needs to get one's mind around.

But no matter what the devilish details are, I'd judge the whole campaign just a little sophomoric, and that it does not present its implied creators, the colleges, as an attractive alternative to the sophistication of university. Seems rather desperate. But what do you think, ad man?

Greg Pabst said...

Yes, I think you're right. This campaign is soaked in a desperation for status - both the parents and the colleges. Bottom line: colleges may get better students and more respect.
I didn't know the he organization of higher education in Canada was so tiered. Helps explain the campaign.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

"Soaked in desperation" -- yeah, that's it.