Sunday, 25 April 2010


Kudos to the Mayfair Theatre for hosting the spring edition of the Ottawa International Writers Festival - the more reasons people have to head down there, the more likely they'll be to keep their doors open once the megaplex arrives in the refashioned Landsowne park.

On this evening I headed down there with N, the Ottawa Sports Guy and @Hopeangrcourage to hear Terry O'Reilly and Mike Tennant elude on their most excellent CBC Radio Series, The Age of Persuasion. The evening was hosted by Lawrence Wall of CBC Radio One (91.5 FM 'round these parts).

There was standing room only. Which was odd, considering - as Lawrence Wall pointed out - we're all supposed to "hate" advertising.

Nevertheless, a very good, very lively discussion ensued. What I like most about these guys and their work is their continued emphasis on writing, language and thinking. Writing ads is difficult. Writing good ads even moreso. Continually winning awards with your ads over a 30-year career is nearly unheard of. Yet these guys have a combined portfolio to make you weep.

Over an hour Terry and Mike (who were friendly and approachable enough as to imply we're on a first-name basis) explored the core ideas of a few of the book chapters. In particular, they talked about need for effective advertising to honor The Contract.

The Contract states that advertisers must give something back to you in exchange for your attention - a laugh, for example. Or a valuable piece of information about the product in question. Advertisers who ignore The Contract - telemarketers being among the biggest culprits here - face only the wrath of the people they're trying to sell to and thus, make their jobs more difficult by continually building a wall of resistance.

There are exceptions, though. Remember the first time you saw an ad in a movie theatre? The howls of protest? The lament for the disappearance of the national anthem? The fact that the price of a ticket didn't go down one bit in exchange for your attention being sold to advertisers? Old news. Now we simply accept them.

Will the same thing happen with Telemarketers? Perhaps, but I can't see it.

O'Reilly and Tennant also spent a good deal of time discussing the recent Tiger Woods ad, with the former recalling how he called it the first in the long process that will be the reconstruction of the golfer's brand (if not his marriage) and how his column generated more heat than any other observation. O'Reilly also had kind words for Sleep Country Canada president Christine Magee for spending so much on radio ads; but lamented her hard-sell, low-rent retail approach to said ads.

There was more said and there's probably more to say, but I'll leave it at that. And the less said about the dude with the rambling, confused screed against ads in schools, the better. Get over yourself, dude. I hate Lost too.

Hell, don't we all?

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