Q: What is Obay? A: a teaser ad campaign for College.

Last week when the mysterious ads for Obay cropped up around Ontario many a blogger speculated what it might really be selling. The Accordion Guy Joey Devilla posted the 15th about the Mysterious Ads for “Obay”

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.

The comments are full of speculation on who the sender might be, from drug companies to anti-drug companies to churches before someone working for a College in Ontario reveals that they are the ones behind the campaign. So, now that the buzz it built, will people care?

Image from *J-Bl*'s photostream

Today in Canada.com the story Mystery ad gains momentum: whodunit? looks at the risks with a campaign like this. Just because people were curious when the campaign first went up doesn't mean they'll care when the sender is revealed.

In early 2007, an unbranded video of a bridezilla lopping off her hair in a pre-wedding fit drew 12 million views on YouTube but garnered next to nothing in the way of publicity for Sunsilk when, two weeks after the Canadian clip was uploaded, the hair-product company revealed its involvement.
...
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.

Hat tip to Caffienegoddess who's been gossiping about this all week, it's really her post but she, like me, is totally overworked at the office right now. I reckon they should get Caff an assistant copywriter. And me a robot that can do all my layouts for me and fetch me my beer all the while it gives me a backrub. Hells yeah.

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Wendall's picture

They're gonna get sued.

Dabitch's picture

You think? For what though?

Wendall's picture

Obay sounds suspiciously like Olay, who might think they are being compared to mind control pills.

Dabitch's picture

Oh, I didn't think of that - I kept reading it as "obey" and hearing "we've always been at war with Eastasia" in the back of my head when I looked at those ads.

adlib's picture

That's a long way to go for... What in the end? Are they going to come out with anothe campaign explaining this one?

Allan1's picture

My first thought when I saw this was "Is this something like eBay? I don't see the connection" - then I realized it was meant to be like "obey", as Åsk said (I don't like rats near my face either!) ;-)

Allan...
"Remember, no matter where you go... There you are." (Buckaroo Banzai).size>
"Hey, barkeep, 2 Rock Over Hip-Hops and 1 Bach Over Vivaldi with ice."size>

Dabitch's picture

More on this from the London Free press:

But like a virus, are the ads truly harmful? Blackmore believes they are, because they distract us from the truly important aspects of our lives.

When we see the ad while riding on a bus, for example, we look up from our book, or interrupt our conversation or get sidetracked from our thoughts. And then, perhaps intrigued, we go home and Google the word "Obay" for 15 minutes.

A minute here, 10 minutes there -- and soon, a few more priceless hours have slipped away.

"If these (advertisers) could grab your head and lock it in place, pry your eyelids open so you couldn't close them and give you a shot of drugs so you'd feel certain things, they'd do it," says Blackmore. "But they can't control people that well. So they have to trick us."

Blackmore argues such ads are more than clever curiosities -- they're dangerous distractions that, when added up at the end of the day, can steal away our lives.

"We must stay focused on things that are actually important," says Blackmore. "We must not allow ourselves to be misdirected.

"We can't afford that anymore."

TDD's picture

I've seen these ads around my city (London, Ontario, Canada). I wondered what they were for about three seconds before moving on. I see one billboard each work day while I ride the city transit. I don't know what they are, and I have long since stopped caring. I'll go out and snap some photos of them, if anyone is interested.

"Happiness is overrated."

adlib's picture

I'm more interested in what peoples reactions to them are, have your friends seen them? Do they care as little as you do? I'm not sure there's much actual buzz here as much as fake internet hype and the two or three bloggers who did care.

TDD's picture

I've not heard anyone talking about them. In fact, I only remembered them when I saw this post. I see the big billboard five or six days a week, as I travel on the London transit system to and from work. It got really old, really fast. It isn't even something that gets my attention. I had to see it a few times before I actually paid enough attention to it to read it. After that, I quickly lost interest.
It is about as interesting to me as a common street sign.

"Happiness is overrated."

Wendall's picture

I saw an article about it on Museum of Hoaxes today.

TDD's picture

...an advocacy group called Colleges Ontario

Figures. Only an advocacy group could come up with something so lame. Alright, maybe I'm the only one who didn't buzz over it, but I still think it is lame. What exactly did it accomplish? If I didn't read Adland, I still wouldn't know what the ads were for. How many people still have no idea what it is about? What was the point?

"LINK to the Museam of Hoaxes article.

"Happiness is overrated."

TDD's picture

They have covered most of the ads around the city now with a big yellow and black sticker that says something like: "Thankfully Obey isn't real. Kids should be able to choose their own future, especially when it comes to their post-secondary school education" and a URL at the end. I don't recall the exact wording. It varies. You can't see the original ad, as the sticker covers almost all of it. Again, I ask: "What is the point?" If these kinds of 'mystery ads' achieve anything to sell a product or create awareness I have yet to be convinced of that.

TDD's picture

There is still a huge billboard of this Obey ad in my city without the 'explanation' on it.

A few days ago, some person(s) climbed up to the billboard and sprayed graffiti, and some kind of message to the city on it (I couldn't make it out, but I presume it was about new and stupid anti-graffiti by-laws - it is illegal to sell spray-paint and markers to anyone under the age of 18 years old in this city) The billboard was promptly cleaned-up, but the ad is still the old one.

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