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The Ones That Mother Gives You

2008_2_15Obay.jpg
At first we assumed it was Scientology. After all, who else has the money to produce and purchase space for such glossy anti-pharmaceutical ads, which have been popping up all over transit shelters and buses in Ontario and Montreal? Google wasn’t much help, and their Blog Search just pointed us to other people as perplexed as we were. And poor spellers with domination fantasies.
Searches of domain registrations weren’t particularly fruitful, especially after the artist behind Obay – The Commodiphile’s Online Marketplace went out of his way to deny any association. Trademark searches with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office taught us there was once a deodorant called Obay, and no one has ever registered WhyBecauseISaidSo. (Although “Gools” at abovetopsecret.com explains that that doesn’t necessarily mean these aren’t legitimate trademarks.)
2008_2_15Obay2.jpgAttempts to get in contact with the Toronto chapter of the Church of Scientology didn’t quite work out. But after we listened to the radio ad’s associated phone message at 1-800-YOU-OBAY (audio file here, transcript here), we were fairly convinced they had nothing to do with this campaign.
We finally followed a lead from Accordion Guy Joey deVilla’s blog and called up Rob Savage, the director of communications for Colleges Ontario, “an advocacy organization representing the province’s 24 colleges of applied arts and technology.” He told us, “In terms of our own marketing stuff, we’re going to be launching that in a few weeks.” We didn’t quite take this as denial, given that 24 Hours quotes a representative of CBS Outdoor (which manages the TTC—but not the shelter—ads) as saying that “The next phase will be revealed in a couple of weeks.” So we asked point blank if he knew who was behind the ads, and he replied, “You’re probably going to have to check around, I guess.” So we next tried the Ontario College Application Service, whose media guy was out of the office Friday.
Returning to the discussion on a popular Toronto tech community, we were able to track down the origin of deVilla’s source and confirm (with reasonable confidence on our part) that the responsible parties are “Ontario Colleges [which] had put together their money to run an ad campaign.” This may or may not be cryptically corroborated by some cached text on Google exclaiming, “I saw this on the bus yesterday. It’s the first part of a two part ad for some Ontario college thing. If I see the second half, I’ll take a picture of it and upload. Enjoy. Obay!” Those sentences no longer appear on sam.cw.leung, which either means Sam was mistaken or revealed something he shouldn’t have.
Top photo taken at the northeast corner of College and Queen’s Park by Jonathan Goldsbie. Photo at right taken by slam525i outside the St. Joseph’s Health Centre.

UPDATE: FEBRUARY 25, 2008
On Thursday, February 21, Colleges Ontario made their involvement in the Obay ads official. At a press conference the following Monday, February 25, they revealed the second phase of the ads, along with the reasons for them.—Ed.

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