Obay Buzz Goes Offish

It’s tricky (tricky, tricky, tricky) pulling off an “It’s Coming…” campaign. You know the ones. Some vague, non-sequitur ad that doesn’t mention a product or a brand but instead leaves you scratching your head and wondering “What was that all about?” “It’s coming…” campaigns double down on a bet that the audience will take notice, engage the message and anxiously await the payoff. But audiences tend to consider these campaigns as gimmicky, requiring too much investment and mildly insulting, which is why the bet rarely pays off.


Enter Obay!, a new series of spots now identified as being from Colleges Ontario, a marketing and advocacy association representing… well… Ontario colleges. I first became aware of Obay from a subway ad.. It was a mock pharmaceutical ad proclaiming: “My son started thinking for himself. OBAY put a stop to that” I usually dismiss “It’s Coming…” type messages but I was intrigued by the lack of any type of call to action from the ad. No mini-site. No 1-800 number. Just a message. Toronto culture blog, Torontoist, took up the cause in identifying the source. Soon the blogosphere was ablaze in chatter about Obay! which made the big reveal actually pay off.

The point of the campaign is to encourage dialogue about the stereotypes that cause parents to aggressively push their children to pursue entry into universities when they may be happier and more productive in a community college. While I won’t pull out my old sociology papers that examine why the university stereotype are false (maybe in a future post) the execution by Colleges Ontario and agencies Smith Roberts and Flex PR, has been flawless. Engaging “It’s coming…” teaser. Lack of call to action leading to buzz. Payoff in reveal with media relations leads to earned media where Colleges Ontario spokespeople deliver their advocacy message. A perfectly integrated campaign.

Maybe advocacy issues are better suited for “It’s Coming…” than product promotions. Advocacy often requires the most creative stractical (small “s”) planning but also have the most to gain from delivering messages through earned media.

Professional associations take notice. PR agencies too. It’s time to obay.