Netflix caught hiring actors to pose as fans at events in Canada

By David Kiefaber on Fri Sep 24 2010


Netflix's arrival in Canada, already a mixed bag in terms of public perception, sank into further ignominy when the company admitted to hiring actors to pose as enthusiastic Netflix fans in front of the Toronto press. The actors were encouraged to play "types" corresponding to Netflix's core demographics, including "mothers, film buffs, tech geeks and couch potatoes," The New York Times reports. I could be insulted by their typecasting, but admittedly I'm half of those things, and I use Netflix. Of course, I use the American version. Canada's wonky copyright laws, which apparently restrict them from enjoying streaming sites like Hulu, mean a small selection of movies for the Great White North. That's gone over about as well as you'd expect. So, it looks even worse for Netflix that they drummed up all this publicity for a service that'll be subpar until they get rights worked out with the appropriate parties. On the other hand, while what they did was unethical and stupid, it wasn't illegal. They still have a long way to go before usurping Comcast's title as king of the shitheels.

'The New Yorker' sells out to those unscrupulous Canadians

Posted on Thu Jun 24 2010


Canadians might be embarrassed to share a continent with their noisy downstairs neighbors, but they sure do love our patronage. Their latest declaration of love came via The New Yorker, in which Canadian companies and brands bought nearly every inch of available ad space in this week's issue, in advance of this year's Ontario-hosted G-8 and G-20 summits. Everything from tourism organizations to universities pitched in to build the Canada brand in the minds of The New Yorker's readership as a place where movers and shakers move and shake, and laugh at cartoons that aren't funny (it is The New Yorker, after all). The revenue from this deal is said to exceed the $1.1 million that Target paid for 18 pages back in 2005. Agencies spend more than that to market laundry detergent these days, but that's still an impressive sum just to convince people that Canada is for grown-ups. In fact, I think they may have overdone it; certainly they could have gotten this message across without buying an entire magazine's worth of ads. Why didn't they just air commercials during golf tournaments with all the other rich guy pandering?

—Posted by David Kiefaber

Riding in a Mini is so exhilarating, it will jiggle your man-boobs

Posted on Wed Apr 14 2010

This Canadian ad for Mini makes a claim that I believe is unique in the annals of auto advertising: Our car will make your man-boobs undulate. Here, a pair of buddies—one resembles David Spade, the other Arzt on Lost—take a high-speed spin, which prompts Arzt to declare: "This thing really handles!" The revelry gives way to awkwardness, however, when Arzt's man-boobs begin quavering and Spade looks away, feeling shame for both of them. Following advertising tradition, the mortification is broken by a deadpan punch line (Arzt's "I'll get out and walk from here") and then some upbeat music. Still, nice work, Taxi. In 30 seconds, you managed to show off the car and get in a solid laugh.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

BBDO and Tropicana brighten up one of Canada's darkest places

Posted on Thu Mar 4 2010

Americans in the lower 48 states who experience seasonal affective disorder might be interested in the latest doings from Tropicana in Canada. In January, the Pepsi brand and its agency, BBDO Toronto, visited the northern town of Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, which experiences weeks of darkness during the depths of winter, and brought the sun—or actually, an artificial, electric-lit facsimile of the sun—to incredulous, grateful residents. Footage from the event is being used in a campaign breaking this week in Canada that's built around the theme, "Brighter mornings for brighter days." Though the stunt is a bit reminiscent of Juan Cabral and Fallon's Cristo-esque work in Europe, it seems a better positioning than what Tropicana has going in the U.S., which might be summed up as "Weirder packaging for confused consumers."

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Canadian restaurant ad almost impressive in its layers of wrong

Posted on Tue Dec 1 2009

This ad for a Canadian restaurant chain called Swiss Chalet has been getting a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. The sentiment is best expressed by Scott Stratten, who writes on his blog: "I recently saw the 'Rudolph Swiss Chalet' commercial that turned me off so much from the place that I've dined at countless times it actually turns me off the brand." YouTube commenters generally agreed that the ad's creepy. After watching it a few times, I think I've figured out what's wrong with it:
  1. The acting. The girl is supposed to be wary, but she seems to be expressing revulsion. The guy is trying too hard, which may fit the character, but the combination of the two leads you to wonder what the backstory is.
  2. Unresolved plot details. How long was this guy gone? It seems like he hasn't checked in with the woman since she was a child. Where has he been? (Stratten suggests jail.) How come she doesn't remember her "favorite place"? Did she block it out?
  3. The ketchup thing is just weird. (If you dare, peruse the YouTube comments for a horrible interpretation of what that's about.) Why couldn't he have gotten a salad and done the Rudolph routine with a cherry tomato?
  4. The setup is all wrong. It looks like they're on a date or something. I realize they wanted to show that this was the girl's long-forgotten "favorite place," but if they started the action inside the restaurant and had the dialogue tell the story, it probably would have worked better.
  That said, what's really wrong with the ad is that it's sad. The girl seems depressed, and it's heart-wrenching to contemplate what kept them apart so long and why they're so tentative around each other. Did he molest her? Was it divorce? Did the mother die? This is a lot to consider in a 30-second ad. I agree with Stratten that it turns you off the brand. In the end, though, I feel bad for the advertiser, which is spending good money to put this vibe out there. Unless, of course, this is a brilliant viral campaign meant to create a buzz. In that case, well done!

—Posted by Todd Wasserman



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