Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Distorted Advertising In Canada

Advertising in Canada is getting highly distorted, to the point where it's difficult to work out what is legitimate advertising, and what is advertising that's masquerading itself under a different disguise.  Most of this is allowed to happen here because the media is largely controlled by only two entities Rogers and Bell - and they aren't really accountable to anyone else, regardless of what you might hear.  The really frustrating thing is the general public is disconnected from the workings of these two giants, and when they are connected in some meaningful way, they get bamboozled by marketing departments.

Here's an example of what I mean:
The World Health Organisation has a World Mental Health Day every year on October 10th.  Large corporations with philanthropic departments raise large sums of money for the cause, and they all use the hashtag "#worldmentalhealthday" …

…except in Canada.

No, what happened here is this:

There was an advertising outfit called Astral Media.  Bell wanted to buy/merge it into their own brand.  As part of the buyouts "tangible benefits" clause, they said to the CRTC that they would donate $3.5million to the "Bell Let's Talk Mental Health" initiative.  What this campaign entailed was getting the public to retweet and text Bell's own hashtag which promoted Bell under the disguise of philanthropy, where Bell would pay 5 cents per tweet.  

Doing the math, everyone in the country would have to send 70 million tweets (so 2 per person - which would never happen) to deplete the money already obligated, regardless of if one tweet only was sent, or 5 million tweets were sent.  To further "promote" the cause, a portion of the more expensive long distance calls and texts made that day would also be donated.

So to rehash what happened in plain English:  
The "benefits clause" would mean Bell knocking off $3.5 million from it's usual advertising budget, and reallocating that money to a new advertising budget (obviously they don't call it that) where Bell would ask everyone else to promote Bell's own initiative, at which point it would ask people to make more expensive long distance calls and texts (so use the services Bell wants you to use) and then hand over a pittance to Mental Health for the services used, whilst simultaneously confusing Canadian's with two mental health days (the real WHO one and Bell's one).

This type of shenanigans annoys the hell out of me because the general public doesn't understand the complicated nature of buyouts and mergers, and given Bell owns half the media, it's not likely to take it upon itself to explain it to the public either.

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