Suicide too Taboo


Last week a Virgin Radio ad featuring a suicidal radio, poised at the edge of a subway platform, was pulled for being in poor taste.

I was at my friend’s house when I heard about this ad — we were watching CP24 and it came up on the feed. We both turned to each other and said in unison, “OMG!”

Let me explain why. This friend works at the TTC as a painter. Ironically enough, he spends most of his days removing paint and grafitti rather than applying it, but in his earlier days on the job, he would be assigned to painting the coffin boxes for the jumpers — black with a white cross. You think that’s gruesome? It gets worse. There is also a “death pit” — the mechanics bay where the trains go to be hosed down. Someone has to stand underneath and wash off the bits from the bottom of the train ~ imagine having that job. 

So, you can understand why TTC Chair Adam Giambrone didn’t hesitate to pull the ads. After recent attacks at certain subway stations, these ads are not exactly confidence-building. Perhaps if we weren’t in a deep recession, or maybe if the radio had been poised on top of a cliff instead of a subway platform, or if it had been a whole herd of radios running towards the cliff like lemmings, it would’ve slipped under the radar. One thing is for sure, suicide is still too much of a taboo for mainstream media.

Obay or Not to Obay?

Obay or not to obay? — this is the question on people’s minds after the appearance of teaser ads in 24 cities over the past two weeks touting a new drug for parental control over their kids. 

Today, Colleges Ontario, the advocacy organization representing 24 colleges of applied arts and technology, stepped up to the mike and revealed their identity at a press conference at Centennial College’s Centre for Creative Communications, as they launch into phase two of the campaign. 

Designed to change parents’ minds about post-secondary education, Colleges Ontario conducted extensive research and identified “a lack of factual information and awareness of both the programs available at the college level, and the economic and personal benefits associated with them.”

President and CEO of Colleges Ontario, Linda Franklin says, “The message is to step back and find out what your children really want, and then look at all the post-secondary options together.” This research is supported by an increasing demand for jobs in fields like the information and technology sectors. 

So far this campaign, crafted by Smith Roberts and Co., has been a success and has spawned much WOM. Ads featured on transit shelters, interior shelters, billboards, bus sides, as well as radio and cinema ads have got people talking on Flickr, Youtube, Facebook and MySpace. Global National picked up the story and even The New York Times showed an interest.  Word of mouth spread and bloggers discussed whether Obay is a Scientology psychopathic drug, competition for ebay or some lobby against parents over-medicating their kids. On YouTube some nut in a balaclava argued whether radio ads were an effective medium for college students. 

Radio ads launched in London featured Teen Chat (1-888-you-obay), a helpline for kids: 

Thank you for calling 1-888-YOU-OBAY. There’s nothing worse than a child who won’t do what they’re told. You raise them, feed them, clothe them, sit through their violin recitals and how do they pay you back? They go ahead and think for themselves! It’s not right and it’s now what you had in mind . . . Thankfully, there’s Obay! A new remedy from the makers of BecauseIsaidso and Notundermyroof. So order your supply of Obay today . . . because YOUR wish is YOUR command!

 This 1-888 number is active and received many calls from people praising the campaign to one duped pharmacist in Vancouver wanting to purchase the drugs.

This creative also includes a Facebook component (Obay Campaign) and a microsite for depth of sale, featuring polls, questionnaires and bios of affluent people like Elio Pacheco, a graduate of George Brown College and president and general manager of Evian North America.

Now that phase two has officially launched, how successful will this campaign prove to be? Buzz has been created, but has the target audience been reached? And how will parents feel about being labeled as controlling, drug-pushing, closed-minded caregivers?