It’s Official: “Obay” is an Ontario Colleges Marketing Campaign

Screenshot of Ontario Colleges site

Ontario Colleges has unveiled the second phase of their marketing campaign on their website.
If you live in Ontario, you’ve probably encountered the first phase of the campaign, the mysterious “Obay” ads (which I covered here, here and here).

Here’s what the main page of the site says:

When it comes to post-secondary education, there are options

And whether you’re a teenager or a parent of one, we urge you to explore them all. University is great, but it’s not for everyone.

Unfortunately, parents often only see the future they want for their kids, rather than the future that their kids want for themselves.

Pressuring your children into a specific school or career may seem like what’s best, but it’s usually quite the opposite. It certainly won’t guarantee them success, and in many cases, it only delays it.

Why? Because the child is stuck in a course or school that they haven’t chosen, that doesn’t motivate them and that they have no emotional investment in.

If you’ve never considered an Ontario college education before, please take a few moments and have a look. You may be surprised at what you find.

Academic Snobbery

There exists a bias – a bias against college or any other post-secondary option that isn’t university. We consider it a form of snobbery.

This results in too many teenagers being pushed in the wrong direction – usually by their parents. “As long as my children go to university, I’ve done my job”.

Many of these parents are university graduates themselves, and have had successful, rewarding careers. They just want the same for their children. The problem is, times have changed and the path they took no longer exists or may not afford the same opportunities. Perception is no longer reality.

It’s an interesting ad campaign, but will it work? I know for certain that it’s got that certain “every opinion has equal merit and every person has equal potential” sort of vibe that will land it on Stuff White People Like (probably as a follow-up to entry #47, Arts Degrees). I seriously doubt that these ads will have any effect on my mom or other parents from cultures where education is considered to be of paramount importance. (I can hear it now: “College is for the gwai lo.” “Lowered expectations is so goyische.”)

The Video Campaign

In addition to the print/poster ads and the website, Ontario Colleges has also produced three cinema ads, shown below:


Gray’s Anatomy



In Case You Have Trouble Telling Us Apart…

…here’s a quick visual guide to telling the difference between Japanese and Filipinos, courtesy of this old World War II filmstrip:

Slide from a WWII training filmstrip showing the differences between a “Jap” and a Filipino

You’ll find more filmstrips on this page.

Be aware that there are several varieties of Filipino:

“Jap” vs. Kickass Filipino

[via BoingBoing]


Mentioned in the New York Times (Obay)

Obay bottle In the What’s Online section of today’s New York Times, the theme is Suburbia’s March to Oblivion and one of the topics is Obay. The article links to my first post on Obay as well as Torontoist’s article.

Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Queen/Bathurst Panorama

The block of buildings on Queen Street West between Portland and Bathurst Streets — the one pretty much destroyed by the recent six-alarm fire — has been my backdrop for accordion busking since my very first day.

In its memory, here’s a panoramic shot of that block of buildings, taken by my friend and first boss Kevin Steele (click the picture to see it at full size):

Preview image of Queen/Bathurst panoramic shot
Click the photo above to see it at full size.
Photo by Kevin Steele.


“Obay” Explained


It’s official: according to this story at — Mystery Ad Gains Momentum: Whodunit? — the ads for “Obay”, which have been popping up all over Ontario are the first wave of a viral advertising campaign for Ontario Colleges.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Though Scientology and anti-pharmaceutical lobbyists have been widely named as suspects in the Obay whodunit, detective work by Canadian blogs Accordion Guy and Torontoist have pegged Ontario Colleges as the likeliest source of the ads – which despite being clustered in eastern Canada, have gained national attention online.

Questioned about their involvement with the campaign, Ontario Colleges spokesman Rob Savage was cautiously vague (“at this point, we don’t have any information we can give you”), but told Canwest News Service he would follow up before the end of the month about the “long-term marketing stuff” being undertaken by the organization.

They’re being quite generous: Torontoist really did the detective work. I merely reported that someone on a mailing list to which I subscribe mentioned a connection between the Obay ads and Ontario Colleges; the people at Torontoist investigated much further.


For those of you not familiar with the Canadian use of the words “university” and “college”, here’s a quick explanation:

  • University refers to a post-high-school institution that generally can grant many levels of degrees — bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctorate degrees and so on.
  • College refers to a post-high-school institution that generally can grant bachelor’s degrees, as well as certificates and diplomas.

Universities are perceived as more prestigious than colleges; in some circles, college is seen as where you go if you just university is out of your grasp, whether intellectual, financial or status-wise. The Obay ads, now that it’s known who’s behind them, are probably a campaign that promotes Ontario Colleges by poking fun at parental pressure to go to university and to show that a college program is a viable choice.


The thing I found most interesting about the Obay ad campaign is that the ads are a sort of Rorschach Test — the psychological test in which you’re shown inkblots and you’re asked to look at them and describe what you see. For the people who commented on my original article as well as for commenters in other places on the net, the Obay ads seemed to reveal their “hot buttons”. Various commenters saw the ads as:

  • A commentary on the some parents’ use of drugs to make their teenagers more compliant
  • A Church of Scientology campaign against psychology and psychiatry
  • A call to arms against mindless conformity
  • Culture jamming by media-savvy pranksters
  • Yet another example of the “billboard child-raising nonsense” and “the absolutely flawed ideas of the left and the simply retarded ideas of the hopelessly stupid”
  • Yet another example of the hippie “I have unresolved feelings of rebelling against my parents” metality
  • Actual ads for real behaviour-altering drugs for your kids
  • Just stupid


Since these ads are all over Toronto and since about one in three people in the Toronto area has a Facebook account, it’s no surprise that there are three “Obay” Facebook groups:

Colleges Ontario will host a media launch next Monday that, according to Torontoist, will reveal “the news behind Obay and its side effects on Ontario’s Post-secondary Education.” Torontoist will cover that story.

On a related note, here’s a parody ad from This magazine, a publication with a very progressive slant, courtesy of Torontoist:

“Obey Spray” ad

Click the photo to see it on its original page.

Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Demos and Ignite Presentations at Monday’s DemoCamp

[This article was also posted on Global Nerdy.]

DemoCamp Toronto 17 logo

This Monday, February 25th, marks the 17th DemoCamp Toronto, the regularly-held gathering where the bright lights of Toronto’s high-tech and startup scene get together to show off their current projects and presentation and exchange information and ideas. Instigated by David Crow, Toronto’s hardest-working tech evangelist and stewarded by him, Leila Boujnane, Jay Goldman, Greg Wilson and Yours Truly.

Unfortunately, all the “tickets” to this event — most of which are free and a few of which were available for very reasonable sponsorship fees ($5, $10 and $200) — sold out in a couple of days.

For those who managed to get tickets, DemoCamp 17 will take place at the Toronto Board of Trade in First Canadian Place. Here’s the schedule:

  • 5:00: Doors open
  • 6:00 – 7:00pm: Demos
  • 7:30 – 8:00pm: Ignite Presentations
  • 9:00: Duke of Westminster for drinks!

Hope to see you there!

The Demos


Scenecaster screenshot.

Presenter (and my former co-worker) Alain Chesnais says: “We will demo the SceneCaster 3D solution with our recently announced SceneWeaver technology that allows you to view inter linked 3D scenes on any XHTML ready device. If you have native 3D support available, we will take advantage of it. But you don’t need to be on a high end gaming PC to work with SceneCaster. We will show the solution working on an iPod Touch to demonstrate that we have ‘3D anywhere” technology ‘available today.”


PlanetEye screenshot.

Here’s the word from presenter Mark Evans: “PlanetEye is a new online travel guide with a difference. We’re combining beautiful travel photographs, mapping technology and advice from locals and travelers to give people a real sense of destinations around the world.”


AskItOnline screenshot

Presenter Kaitlyn MacLachlan tells us: “AskItOnline is a ‘web 2.0’ online service that allows you to easily create and deploy your surveys online. Using a drag ‘n drop interface along with AJAX and other client-side code, creating a survey has never been easier!”


GigPark screenshot

Pema Hegan and Noah Godfrey will be presenting this one. They say: “GigPark is a way to find services with the help of your friends. TorCampers have already recommended their favourite web designers, blog hosting companies, startup lawyers, commercial real estate agents, office cleaners, accountants, and logo designers. We’re going to show everyone how they can use GigPark to find the service providers they need to help run their startups (and their lives).”

.NET Development on a Mac

MonoDevelop screenshot

The word from presenter Geoff Norton: “The Mono project has just released our first version of MonoDevelop running natively on the Mac (no X11). We think its a compelling (and free) alternative to booting up VMWare/Parallels and running Visual Studio.”

The Ignite Presentations

Social Services Mashup

OCASI: Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Here’s the abstract from presenter Clara Severino:

The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and Partnership Platform, which acts a catalyst between non-profits and the IT sector, have partnered to explore more intuitive and user-friendly approaches to locating services and organizations of interest in Ontario’s neighbourhoods.

The main objective for the project is to amalgamate both privately and publicly available data from various online sources, to develop a centralized database of services and organizations of interest to newcomers to Ontario’s neighbourhoods in order to provide users with an interactive visual representation of desired services mapped to a specified region. The potential for expansion of services and customization in the future is huge! A number of non-profit organizations have already expressed interest in using this application for their own audience.

Our intention is to get feedback from the tech community to improve our solution and raise awareness of the impact of technology on the non-profit sector.

This innovative initiative is a great way of getting both the non-profit sector and the tech community to come together to improve quality of life.

The Future is Simple

The future of communications is simple

Presenter Geo Perdis tells us:

I would like to talk about the future of communications and my belief that it is simple. That is to say that simplicity will rule in a world where more and more media come at us faster and faster and compete for our finite attention.

This presentation would be an extension of a micromedia riff that I did back in November 2007 for a micromedia meetup. See and

With respect to selecting this talk, I think that I can provide a balanced perspective on some unique services possibilities and opportunities that the Toronto-area technology and media community can lead in defining, developing and deploying here and around the world.

In turn, I would hope that the community would get some additional insights as to what we can do locally that is unique and original to our circumstances, conditions and location.

Leveraging Things Wide Open

Mike Beltzner

This will be a presentation by Mozilla’s Mike Beltzner.

How to Rock SXSW

Rannie Turingan

Rannie “Photojunkie” Turingan will give us a taste of the presentation he’ll be giving at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival. Here’s the abstract:

Where should you go? What parties are cool? How can I meet those people that are *gasp* Internet FAMOUS! Learn this and more at this welcome panel for SXSW Noobs. This panel will provide useful tips for SXSW virgins and veterans from a diverse panel of SXSW Interactive attendees, speakers, and personalities. Come for the laughs, anecdotes, and useful tools that will equip you to “Rawk Out” during SXSW Interactive. I mean, why should Music and Film attendees have all the fun?

The State of Wireless in Canada Sucks

Graph: Canadian mobile data rates compared with those from around the world

Even war-ravaged Rwanda has better mobile rates than we in Canada do! Presenter Tom Purves explains this sad state of wireless affairs.


This Needs to Become an Olympic Sport

The activity depicted in the Chinese propaganda poster shown below needs to be turned into a new Summer Olympics sport:

Chinese propganda poster showing rifle shooters double-riding on a bike, aiming at targets in the distance.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the red text at the bottom translates to “Wolverines!”
Photo courtesy of Miss Fipi Lele.