Monday, 8 June 2015



One Large Crude to Go Please, Black, No Sugar


A storm brewed up at Tim Hortons coffee shops last week. Tempers boiled over. Scalding words were exchanged. There’s no way to sugarcoat this.


A recap: Enbridge, a Canadian energy concern and pipeline proponent, bought a month’s worth of advertising time on the in-store, closed circuit network of Tim Hortons, a Canadian coffee concern and national cliché right up there with red serge Mounties, maple syrup and poutine. A foreign environmental group complained about Big Oil public relations propaganda seeping into the soft brains of unsuspecting Canadians. In response to the twitterpation of the twitverse the coffee company pulled the advertising it had sold Enbridge about a week earlier than contracted. Unbelievably, Prime Minister Stephen Harper actually allowed junior members of his Conservative caucus to chirp unsupervised about the controversy using 140 characters or less.


There are many things wrong with this LCD flat screen picture.


What’s surprising is that Enbridge actually believed Tim’s TV could actually provide enough GRPs (gross ratings points, essentially eyeballs multiplied by frequency of exposure) to reach average Canadians in their natural habitat. The chain has worked diligently to reduce wait times at its stores’ ordering counters, the drive-thru lines are longer. In the brave new world of free (and likely insecure) wi-fi people hanging around java joints are absorbed by their laptops and smart phones. Older folk read their newspapers or weirdly, converse with their companions. Ultimately, Enbridge’s ‘Life Takes Energy’ spot was just another byte of white noise in a cluttered world of all advertising all the time, merely more stuff to be tuned out and ignored.


So, this bad media buy took almost three weeks to get noticed. Eventually it registered with somebody with a contrary agenda, probably an overly earnest soul who would describe themselves as an activist. The online complaint, the whinging, the hand wringing, was generated by SumOfUs, a well-meaning group of American greens who maintain that their Canadian followers on social media permit them to create confabulated issues inside our borders. It’s a bonus that they have the time and freedom to do so; apparently everything in the United States is A-OK – hell, even the Duggars have talked to God about one of their 19 mistakes. This international interference implies a Big Brother scorn. The insulting intimation is that we Canadians are too thick to realize that advertising is not objective.

Any debate requires two sides, pro and con. The extreme right and the extreme left combine to make interesting bed partners as neither side will brook any discussion. Shrill, vitriolic rhetoric doesn’t foster articulate engagement with the other side. All of us need to talk about the long term future and well-being of Earth because Martian colonies will not be all-inclusives and it’s likely we’ll wreck that planet too. We need to talk about the short term future of fossil fuels. We need that energy now while viable alternatives are developed or invented and the current rational consensus at any local Tim’s is something akin to a Wham! hit: If you’re gonna do it, do it right. Research, care and attention cost a little more: spend, and justify this enlightened, expensive rationale to your shareholders. Not every corporate CEO wears a grey Nehru jacket and strokes a white fluffy pussycat during board meetings just as every environmentalist is not an anarchist vandal in a black hoodie. Everybody’s got to listen to one another. The volume’s got to be turned down; otherwise all of us will be scavenging in a world that doesn’t amount to a hill of roasted Arabica beans.

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