Mysterious Ads for “Obay”

by Joey deVilla on February 15, 2008

Weird ads for a product called “Obay” have been popping up all over Accordion City for the past week:

Ad for “Obay”: “My son had ideas of his own. Obay put a stop to that.”
Click the photo to see it on its Flickr page.

It’s obvious that the product doesn’t actually exist and that it’s some sort of viral marketing campaign. As for what the campaign is meant to promote, most people with whom I’ve spoken to about the ads think that it’s some kind of jab at parents who are following the disturbing trend of medicating their teenage kids out of normal teenage behaviour and into Stepford adolescence.

One person on the TorCamp mailing list wrote that a colleague doing consulting work for a nearby college says that it’s an ad campaign for Ontario colleges.

I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

Ad for “Obay”: “My son used to have his own hopes and aspirations. Now he has mine. Thanks, Obay!”
Click the photo to see it on its source page.

Have you seen these ads?

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Jacquilynne February 15, 2008 at 2:06 pm

I saw one on the side of a bus the other day, and pretty much the whole way up Jane Street, I kept trying to keep beside that bus at red lights and such, so I could re-read the ad.

I could tell it was a parody, but I figured if I looked closely enough, I might be able to figure out what it was actually advertising. Nope. No idea.

darryl February 15, 2008 at 3:58 pm
Paulo February 15, 2008 at 4:54 pm

They’ve been popping up on streetcars, too. I saw one the other day that said “When Amy started thinking for herself, we had to nip it in the bud with Obay.”

jafer February 15, 2008 at 8:11 pm

Haven’t seen them but then I don’t get out much. Where can I get me some of them thar stepford pills? I have a teenager.

John February 16, 2008 at 4:09 pm

They are ads for ontario colleges. they will soon becoming out with radio ads. basically its a message to parents to allow your kids to dream thier own dreams. and support them in the descision they make whether you argee with them or not.

Mike February 17, 2008 at 12:32 am

that’s pretty stupid, if nobody can understand it then y bother putting it out

Whistleblower February 17, 2008 at 7:09 pm

There have been reports of ads in Montreal too…

Long time, 🙂

Joey deVilla February 17, 2008 at 11:09 pm

@Whistleblower: Hey there! Good to hear from you!

Joey deVilla February 17, 2008 at 11:10 pm

@Mike: The idea behind being mysterious is that they spark discussion, where a straight-forward ad probably wouldn’t.

Rofl February 18, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Ya there’s one on my bus stop too.. dont get it :S

Lfae February 18, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Look at how well the adds have worked already, I don’t seam to be the only one to have gone on line searching for what the adds are for, or if they are real, or to find out what they are really selling. Everyone I know is talking about them,they have created a buzz.. look at how much interest they have caused by being so vague. its freakin marketing genius.

Steve February 19, 2008 at 6:27 am

I also think these ads are from a marketing genius, sort of like “Gabbo is coming…”

I will be very disappointed if it is for something like Scientology.

I do have to chuckle when I read them though.

Tyler February 19, 2008 at 2:50 pm

I’ve been seeing these same ads popping up around Oshawa, being a teenager myself I found it disturbing, so I went digging for info and found this site… Im very relieved to hear its unlikly this is a real drug!

Joey deVilla February 19, 2008 at 3:05 pm

@Tyler: Obay may not be a real drug, but some lazy and irresponsible parents have been using drugs like Prozac and Ritalin to dope their teenagers into compliance or to medicate them out of their growing pains.

Caroline Mwale February 19, 2008 at 6:54 pm

I kept on seeing them all over the place today and I kept on thinking “am I the only one that sees how messed up these ads are” “the world has surely gone crazy…wtf are they trying to tell the world”

Jennifer February 19, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Those ads are so creepy! It seems like something from a movie.

AnonymousAdWatcher February 19, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Whoever invented these ads is a twat! Look at people like michael jackson, grew up just great without drugs like this

dmcg February 19, 2008 at 7:37 pm

I saw one of these today at Spadina and Dupont and had a good laugh. I find it amusing once you’ve read through and get the joke.

Christian Pelletier February 19, 2008 at 7:38 pm

I’ve seen these in Sudbury, Ontario.

Brian February 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm

They are viral AD’s for OverStock.com !!

Matthew February 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm

I saw one of these ads on tv and i was like “wtf”

dhp February 19, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Wow. Some of these comments go to show why public campaigns like this are necessary. It’s clearly to spark discussion and to re-examine why parents mindlessly put their kids on drugs from their early adolescence. Kids need to be encouraged at what they enjoy and not stifled. But parents do want these perfect little soldiers that just go by the books: honor role, decent college, become an accountant, get married, have kids and die. Most parents want that and some of it is because the parent never got to do what they wanted and so they try to raise their kids as a reflection of themselves.
Whatever it is, it’s a positive thing. It gets people talking and even if it is just an ad for a college, I still hope it will spark some debate over the mass drugging of kids. Some of these drugs are remarkably hard to get off of. Will there even be musicians and artists in about 20 years?
These kids are primed to think like the pack and the rest of the flock. What if some of the great artists, invetors, writers and the like would have been drugged with this shit from youth?
We’d be a much boring, much less evolved society for it.
But hey…it lets mommy and daddy enjoy peaceful nights at home. Small price to pay? I think not.

Art February 19, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Seen in London, On on the LTC.

Andrew February 19, 2008 at 8:02 pm

These ads are appearing on buses in London Ontario as well. What the heck?

nav February 19, 2008 at 8:09 pm

Torgame?
ARG?

Riley Janzen February 19, 2008 at 8:11 pm

Sounds like the Obey campaign: http://www.obeygiant.com

Brains February 19, 2008 at 8:14 pm

I saw one of these adds on Brantford Transit busses. I dont know what its about for sure and its making me angry… this is a really good marketing campaign

OBAY supporter February 19, 2008 at 8:28 pm

yeah those are pretty damn good ads..

i hope the ad’s message and whatever the organizations out for kind of mesh* if it’s for overstock.com i’d be like wtf?

Ari February 19, 2008 at 8:28 pm

They’re all the way up here in London, Ontario.
I saw it on the bus and thought it was a culture jam from some students at Western, but then I came to Toronto last week and saw a giant poster of it on a bus stop, I got really confused. The marketing has definitely worked on me, as here I am trying to find answers.

Sherry February 19, 2008 at 8:41 pm
Mike February 19, 2008 at 8:48 pm

They are ads for Ontario Colleges, I work for a College in Ontario and have had some dealings with the marketing firm who created this. They were also responsible for the United Church of Canada campaign that garnered some attention from the press.
An interesting campaign to say the least, hopefully it will spark some discussion about post-secondary education in Ontario and in Canada.

hinkey February 19, 2008 at 9:51 pm

I’ve herd a few of the ads on FM96

t-pill February 19, 2008 at 10:17 pm

Seen them around bus shelters in Ottawa, Ont. I like them, although I think most people won’t even think to take a second look, just another pharmaceutical ad on the transitway…

NM February 19, 2008 at 10:36 pm

OBAY for OBAMA. We want obama!

Adam February 19, 2008 at 10:56 pm

These ads are also inside the poster spaces in the subway cars.

jm February 19, 2008 at 11:03 pm

I just noticed these on busses in Ottawa yesterday, I was wondering what they were all about.

They’re pretty awesome.

Will February 19, 2008 at 11:10 pm

…Sigh…
I try my hardest to understand the absolutely flawed ideas of the left and the simply retarded ideas of the hopelessly stupid. They’re two groups that have some things in common and plenty of interesting things in difference. But what I can’t get over is this billboard child raising nonsense. Folks, I have a tidbit of information for everyone. If you’re that stupid to medicate you’re kids with ritalin, then you should bare the honor of giving offspring to the next generation of crackheads. Or, if you’re a quote-unquote “enlightened” parent and think that no discipline at all is a sensible thing, cause’ you know, you don’t to want to hurt lil’ Johnies creative juices, then you’re a loony basket case yourself. For those of you who now find yourself with a conundrum, try this simple solution. I say simple, cause it’s been the established form of child raising for, oh say, the last 4,000 years of human history; try spanking there ass till they do there homework, brush there teeth and go to bed! I know that seems to be a crazy idea, but what do I know, it worked for me and now I’m an artist. Hmmm….

James Brandy February 19, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Maybe one of these are going to be the ultimate URLs?

http://www.obay.ca (obay.com is Overstock.com, therefore obviously unrelated)

http://www.whybecauseisaidso.com (appears to be domain squater)

http://www.whybecauseisaidso.ca (under construction)

Me February 19, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Apparently they’re ads from schools.

And if I started taking meds when I was a kid, I might have done alot better in them. Some people need medication to help with their over active/over analytical minds.

doped up

Me

Me again February 19, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Also I wish I followed my dreams.

Jeung February 19, 2008 at 11:44 pm

As if Asian parents needed a drug to make their children do what they wanted.

Whoever February 20, 2008 at 12:17 am

Seems to me its working quite well as it got the attention of all of you.. =) even so much you guys are blogging about it.

Veronica February 20, 2008 at 12:39 am

Here’s the domain registration for the domain http://www.whybecauseisaidso.ca

http://www.whois.net/whois_new.cgi?d=http%3A%2F%2Fwhybecauseisaidso&tld=ca

It’s long distance for me to call that number (the one listed as Admin Contact) .. but anyone else want to call it and see what they find?

This is assuming that whybecauseisaidso.ca has anything to do with the campaign in the first place.

angelofmusic February 20, 2008 at 7:27 am

I bet these are from Nine Inch Nails… they’ve been doing a lot of viral marketing this past year…. Anyone remember last spring’s Year Zero Experience? This totally would fit in with Year Zero…

Leon Flamick February 20, 2008 at 10:06 am

Its an ad about how fucked up the younger generation is, so they promote a product that brainwashes the younger people to thinking like the older generation. But if you think about it very carefully, you would find that its the system that’s fucked up, not the younger generation.
The younger generation doesn’t want anything to do with the older school of racism, war and discipline like a dictator just as the hippy generation during the 60’s and 70’s rejected authority in their day. Who can blame them, the system is on the path of ruination if it keeps pace with its present state.

A. Nony Mous February 20, 2008 at 11:32 am

Shepard Fairey, perhaps?

(google it.)

Me February 20, 2008 at 4:50 pm

They have these ads in Toronto. I saw one on a bus the other day and was trying to figure out what it was for.

Mar February 20, 2008 at 4:53 pm

OBAY….
“Education Reform” advertisement being used to launch “Education Reform”. Next week we will see phase two.
Yes, this advertisment has gotten our attention, but at what cost.
Mind control with our children is a dispicable thought, I don’t care who is using it as a gimmick, hook,spoof or hoax.
If in fact it is our Education System, shame on them.
I believe the Agency “Think Tank” was brought up being babysat by Homer Simpson, Family Guy and South Park.
Perhaps they should be living in a country where people are truely not allowed to think for themselves, just to try it on for size.
God bless Canada, where you can speak freely.
Mar

Aron February 20, 2008 at 8:09 pm

If anyone really wants to know what this is all about check out this thread in the UnFiction Forum.

http://forums.unfiction.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=24479

barefoot4life February 21, 2008 at 9:48 am

Yeah I thought it was a faux product but I see them all over DRT buses, I sure would like to find out the true meaning of this ad

Tom February 21, 2008 at 11:45 am

These ads look like they were design by someone with a “University Stoner Hippie” mentality. You know the kind of guy who wears a Che Guevara shirt to express his individuality, even though 1) everyone is wearing them and 2) Guevara SHOT individualists for being enemies of the state.

But the idea that parents and other authority figures impose rules in order to “suppress independent thought” rather than to protect and teach manages to find traction with every generation.

David Topping February 21, 2008 at 12:45 pm
yarick February 21, 2008 at 5:16 pm

yo this was so scary, cuz my mom noticed and told me that she gonna go get them meds she seen on the billboard. I’m relieved to know that this OBAY will not be added to the extensive list of antidepressants my parents make me take every day!

Chelsey February 21, 2008 at 5:50 pm

ya i seen these on the bus going home from school one day…..
i think they’re really weird and want to know where they’re comming from

sumi February 22, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Whoa, I guess I wasn’t the only one. I’m a teenager myself, so when I saw those ads on the subway, I freaked. I stared at the ad for nearly half an hour trying to figure out what it was about. In the end, I just figured that with all the craziness in the world today, it wasn’t that surprising. Plus, all I had to do was make sure my parents never saw that ad, how hard could it be, the ad is just on hundreds of public transportation vehicles. But I have to hand it to the person who came up with the ad, it’s the most brillant thing since sliced bread.

Arun Jacob February 22, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Have a look at the website http://www.edgecampaign.co.uk/

and then have a look at the presentation by David Pincott, Head of Media Relations, Edge(UK):

http://www.co-conference.org/powerpoints/2008-co-keynote-pincott.ppt

It only makes sense…

Ole February 26, 2008 at 3:48 pm

I love the fact that a lot of these ads are on opposing sides of Viagra ads and the like. Whatever it is actually for, the conversation its envoking is great!

Brain Washing February 27, 2008 at 4:01 pm

I have seen these stupid ads for OBAY…why because I said so……what in the world are we doing….how come we are allowing these people to place adverstisements that are insulting to the human race.

I don’t know about you….But I sure know with my experience and research that NO NO NO medicine will help with this “condition” (whatever there talking about). Because I say so……I really think these people need to obay policy when it comes to putting this stuff in peoples environment, this is offencive and obscene….Do they think where stupid.

Abdul February 27, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Its been informed that this advertisement is a FAKE.

It was a teaser ad by the government to make parents realize that forcefully making students do what parents want em to do is in humane and wrong.

Governmentally funded of course, municipal most probably, and targeted by bus since the larger demographic of adults are found in public or near public transport, WERE FREE! And i really hope parents that are stupid to do what my parents are doing (Forcing their youth to do something they don’t want to) to stop doing what they do.

If you seen current Ads, they have a yellow page posted saying something like this

“Luckily Obay is not real, sure we want the best for our children but when it comes to post secondary school students should have the freedom to choose, discover your possibilities at ontariocolleges.ca”

Peace~

ana February 27, 2008 at 9:06 pm

The ads are a comment on beliefs that “quality” post secondary education means university in particular, and that colleges fall into a lesser class of education. Colleges Ontario is trying to inform the public that this just is not so, and that students (and their parents especially) should not consider university as the only option for post-secondary education. In fact, there are many more job opportunities for college graduates taking a specialized program than there are for students with a general bachelor of arts degree from university.

I think the main point of the ads is just to tell parents that perhaps the “dreams” of their son or daughter becoming a lawyer or doctor need to be seen as not the ONLY respectable educational avenues.

Sandhu February 28, 2008 at 2:28 pm

They have finally reveled the site, and have finally revealed phase two of their campaign.
Image:
http://img256.imageshack.us/img256/8509/obaybg1.jpg
Website: http://whycollege.ontariocolleges.ca/en/obay.html

Jennie McKenzie March 10, 2008 at 10:42 am

This reminds me of the cartoon with a billboard that says “Ritalin: So Much Easier then Parenting!” and the wonderful satire “The CHILD Disorder” at http://www.naturalchild.org/jan_hunt/child_disorder.html
Take a look!

Jennie

Tammzz April 5, 2008 at 6:50 pm
Cezzie October 16, 2008 at 5:55 pm

I just noticed a add today for the first time.

I live in Thunder Bay Ontario. I was riding the transit on the way to College. I usually notice most ads, this is the First Obay as I’ve seen. This could also be due to the fact i regularly just stick to one buss, and for the most part centralize in one area of the city. Perhaps we’ve gotten the campaign here later?

knew at first sighting, this has to be some sort of social movement or satire. I couldn’t image who has created the ad, I’m surprised and comforted to find this sort of neat approach is done by the colleges.

I’m happy to be a student in the program I choose, I paid a lot of my own way right off the bat.
It boggels my mind how many young people waste their parents money, their own time, to take a program and drop out of it. For goodness sake, at least finish the year and get some damn good grades to show for yourself ehh!

Wallace February 28, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Come on people,..Wake up!…..This add is a comment on how far off coarse the medical community is. Some doctors and most Pharmaceutical companies are committing crimes by marketing psychotic drugs to people who don’t need them. The world is under siege by Pharmaceutical companies and lobbyist for those companies. Someone with a lot of knowledge and a lot of money is trying break the cycle of madness by encouraging the world to think for itself and stop allowing lawmakers and drug companies to think for you and tell you what you need….

Wallace February 28, 2009 at 2:21 pm

These pharma companies now own our doctors all over the world…and if people don’t wake up now it is only getting worse….nine out of ten shootings in by suburban teens in America is now committed by someone who is taking Zoloft, Prozac and other anti depressants. Pharma cos want your money…And they don’t care if they have to take your life to get it…

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