The new logo keeps the badge outline, but replaces the grey and orange design that went overkill on the gradients with a simpler black-and-white one that’s literally rougher around the edges.
But the formula isn’t being toyed with. CHOM remains “the spirit of rock” and the music will sound the same.
“We thought the logo was a bit dated even though it’s not that old,” program director André Lallier told me on Friday. “The timing was good also, because over the past two years, the music has evolved. We’re playing a lot of newer stuff.”
The new logo, and the ad campaign that goes with it, are the work of ad agency Bleublancrouge, whose clients include The Gazette. (It did their Words Matter campaign in 2006.)
Lallier said it was the agency that approached them about three months ago asking if they could pitch an idea. “They said we’ll work on something and present something to you in three to six weeks.” After giving the agency a full briefing on how CHOM sees itself and what it’s looking for, Bleublancrouge returned with this campaign, which is focused on CHOM’s music: a mix of classic rock and new rock.
Well that’s a bit more direct than you normally see. This ad is from Star 92.9 WEZF, a station based in Burlington, Vermont, that targets the Montreal audience even though it’s not incredibly easy to pick up here if you’re not in a car.
In case you can’t tell from the references to Aaron, Tasso, The Q and 92.5, the ad is a direct attack on The Beat (CFQR, now CKBE) and its programming changes.
I get the plan to profit from the format change, but the direct attack seems a bit much. Though there are still people bitter about Tasso and (later) Aaron getting the boot, I haven’t heard much negative about changing from The Q to The Beat. It’s too early to get an idea of ratings, but The Beat General Manager Mark Dickie says he’s encouraged by early numbers in their target demographic.
But I guess going outrageous is part of their marketing plan. It got me talking about them.
A couple of disturbing stories have come to light recently about Quebec television broadcasters’ attempts to censor things that might affect their bottom line.
The first was the revelation from La Presse’s Hugo Dumas that producers of dramatic programming for TVA were being asked to not show characters using iPhones. This, apparently, because Quebecor owns both TVA and Videotron and Videotron doesn’t offer the iPhone to wireless customers.
That prompted a reply from Quebecor VP Serge Sasseville that actually admitted Dumas’s story was true, but said that this was simply a case of a sponsor (Videotron) wanting its products depicted in the programming it sponsors. He offers the example of Ford sponsoring Radio-Canada’s series 19-2, and seeing Ford vehicles being driven in the show.
Some have noted that RDS is now owned by Bell, which is a stakeholder in the Canadiens and owns the naming rights to the Bell Centre, among many commercial deals between the telecom giant and the hockey team.
Both of these moves are ridiculous, and both reek of giant media empires abusing their ownership powers to mold programming in one area so it matches the business interests of another.
It’s not that many steps from this to each media giant having its own imaginary universe, each with its own set of maybe-true facts.
Clara Hughes is the spokesperson for Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign to raise awareness about mental illness
The phrase, and the face of Canadian Olympic star Clara Hughes, are all over the media today in a campaign organized by Bell Canada. It’s planning to spend $50 million over five years on this program, and today it’s giving five cents for every text message and long-distance call by a Bell customer to mental health initiatives.
And, of course, during the actual commercials, Hughes appears again – over and over – in ads paid for by Bell talking about the campaign.
It doesn’t stop with CTV, though. My own newspaper The Gazette has two pages devoted to this subject today, one of which has a giant ad featuring Hughes and the Bell logo. I’m sure it won’t be hard to find other examples in other media.
Fighting mental illness is a laudable goal. No one with even a trace of a soul can stand up and say they oppose this campaign. I salute Hughes and Bell for their efforts, and wish the campaign success (though I’m not quite sure what that would mean – they’ve already said they’re spending $50 million over five years, so are the donations in excess of that, or did they just estimate how much it’ll cost them? UPDATE: The money from this event – more than $3 million – was in fact in addition to the $50 million they’d already pledged)
This also isn’t the first time that a big, rich company has bought news for a good cause. Newspapers often have pages devoted to issues chosen by advertisers. They have various names for this, referring to them as “partnerships” or “joint ventures”. “Directed content” is my favourite term. A step beyond the advertorial, the content is presented as news, it doesn’t talk about the advertiser directly, and the advertiser has no say in the content of the news pieces themselves, other than their subject.
Oral B and Listerine sponsor coverage of oral care. Big oil companies sponsor articles about the environment to greenwash their image. Banks and other financial institutions sponsor entire sections on the importance of RRSPs. It is, in the eyes of the publishers and advertisers, a win-win: the news outlet gets much-needed advertising money, the advertiser gets to see its logo all over the place, and the issue gets public exposure.
The only drawback is the crumbling wall between editorial and advertising. The precedent is established that an advertiser can get all sorts of journalistic outlets to contribute to its campaign, provided it’s for a good cause (or something that can be interpreted as a good cause), and that big media companies will use the power of convergence to please those advertisers, if given enough money.
Most importantly, it means that issues advertisers want to bring up – whether because they want to appear charitable or because it is in line with their business interests – get more exposure than those nobody wants to spend money on. People who want their causes to get news coverage are better off pleading to large corporations’ marketing departments than to journalists. And good luck getting anyone to pay attention to a cause that puts one of those big corporations in a bad light.
To be clear, I have nothing against this cause. Bell is spending a lot of money it could have just as easily given to its shareholders or spent on ads lauding its services. I don’t think the good PR that will come from this will bring in more than $50 million in new subscribers. And I hope the campaign is very successful and helps a lot of people.
But I think it sets a bad precedent when a company like Bell can simply dictate to all its divisions, including news, that a certain topic is covered on a certain day. It’s hard not to think of that as a slippery slope.
For the past few years, a loophole in the CRTC’s simultaneous substitution rules has allowed Videotron HD subscribers to watch the Super Bowl and other programming with the U.S. commercials.
This year, CTV is determined to close that loophole, and has setup a digital HD transmitter on Mount Royal to do so.
Though he called the timing “coincidental” (it only just got approval from Industry Canada to start transmitting), CFCF station manager Don Bastien confirmed Friday the rumours that have been spreading online. He says the transmitter has been setup and is expected to begin testing within hours (UPDATE: The transmitter is running, with signal reports coming in from all over). He also says the station informed Videotron and other television distributors weeks ago that it intends to enforce the rule on simultaneous substitution and replace the Super Bowl feed on WFFF (Fox 44) with its own on Feb. 6.
The loophole explained
Simultaneous substitution is a CRTC policy that requires cable companies to replace a U.S. channel with a feed from a local Canadian TV station when the two are running identical programming. The idea is that advertising revenue would remain in Canada, because the advertising is sold by the local station.
Most of the year, this isn’t an issue (assuming it’s done correctly – often there are glitches, particularly when live shows run past their scheduled time). But Super Bowl Sunday has a reputation as much for its million-dollar commercials as its championship football and rocking half-time show. And those while those commercials air nationally in the United States, not all of them will air on Canadian television as well.
Under the rules of simultaneous substitution, the Canadian signal must be a local, broadcasting television signal, which is of equal or greater quality than the American one. Since CFCF was not broadcasting in high definition, Videotron was not obligated to substitute the U.S. HD feed with the special HD feed that CFCF provided the cable company off-air. Nor could they replace the U.S. HD feed with a standard-definition feed from CFCF.
Now, with a digital transmitter running and expected to remain that way during the Super Bowl, the only way to get the game with U.S. commercials (legally) is to setup an antenna and pick up WFFF over the air from across the border. (We’ll see how many bars want to go through that much trouble.)
Because the analog transmitters are still running on Mount Royal, broadcasters have setup temporary digital transmitters across the city in less prime locations. CFCF’s is just next to the Mount Royal transmitter, on Channel 51 (the PSIP system has it show on TVs as “12.1”), with an effective radiated power of about 6,000 Watts. Though it’s nowhere near the 325 kilowatts being put out by its analog transmitter, it’s probably good enough that people who can see the mountain can pick it up over the air.
When asked about preventing Montreal cable viewers from getting U.S. commercials, Bastien wasn’t sympathetic. “We have paid the Canadian rights to the Super Bowl,” he said. “The broadcast should be a Canadian broadcast. It’s not a matter of taking away something from Canadian viewers, but rather us getting what we paid for.”
I suspect that will be cold comfort to some of those viewers.
Watch WFFF over the air with an antenna, assuming you get good enough reception. (Your TV must have an ATSC digital tuner)
Watch the commercials online after the fact, on sites like YouTube. It’s not like the advertisers want to put roadblocks between their works of art and your eyeballs.
UPDATE (Jan. 31): CTV has issued a press release announcing the station being on the air, which I guess means it’s out of testing now. Like most press releases by media companies, it’s intentionally misleading for the sake of pretending to be better than the competition. It says “CTV becomes Canada’s only broadcaster to have HD transmitters in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Montréal,” but it obviously chooses those cities selectively, leaving out that even with CFCF, it trails Citytv and Global in the number of cities with digital transmitters (and it matches CBC at four). It also talks quite a bit about CFCF’s newscast, which might give people the impression that the newscast will be in high definition, but that’s months, probably years away.
In Thursday’s Gazette, I noticed a mostly-text ad from the Station des Sports, signed by local … uhh … entrepreneur … Peter Sergakis, who owns the bar and many other bars around town. It was to thank people around the sports bar for supporting its plan to expand its footprint.
As you can imagine with these ads, there’s a lot of missing context. The project has been under fire recently because of Sergakis’s use of a “loophole” in the law that allows him to bypass a register (that could force a referendum on the subject if it gets enough signatures) by having more than half the people affected sign a petition.
The ad itself isn’t what surprises me, though. What’s interesting is that the ad turns onto a different page. Like newspapers that (used to, at least) start major articles on the front page and continue them inside, this one ends a colour ad on Page A3 with “advertisement continued on Page A8”.
Peter Sergakis ad for Station des Sports (Page A3 of Thursday's Gazette)
Part 2 of the same ad, from Page A8
Not something you see often in advertisements. Most likely this was done because A3 has colour and exposure but limits the space given to advertisers to ensure most of it is editorial copy.
Why is this a loophole?
Anyway, back to that loophole. In this city, if you don’t like a by-law change that affects the area immediately around where you live, you can sign a register to demand a referendum on the subject. If you get the required number of signatures, the city/borough must either hold a referendum or withdraw the project.
The “loophole” is a little-used way to get around this, by having more than half the people who would be able to sign that register and vote in that referendum sign a petition supporting the project. So if the area around a new development had 1,000 people, you’d need to get 501 to sign a petition and then there wouldn’t be a register or referendum.
The reasoning makes sense to me. If those 501 support the project, why bother having a referendum where they would, presumably, all vote no? How is this a “loophole”? Isn’t it just democracy at work.
I asked around, and the answers I got pointed to how ancient and unused this law is, and how it wasn’t designed to be used in this way (even the city admits that). I see that, but it hardly makes it undemocratic.
The other answers mentioned how unfair it is compared to the trouble one has to go through to force a referendum. The petition can be passed around over months, while registers are open only for a day. The petition can be brought to people’s homes, while registers can only be signed at borough offices.
On the other hand, though, far fewer people are required to sign a register to force a referendum than sign a petition to quash one. And again, if more than half the affected residents support the project, isn’t that still the will of the people? Or should the minority overpower the majority?
What’s left unsaid in calling this a “loophole” is the implication that those who sign petitions supporting projects don’t really support them. That they’re being fooled by people hired by developers to bribe people into signing petitions they don’t fully understand. That when exposed to the issues in a referendum, they would change their minds and vote against.
That’s not a far-fetched idea or a conspiracy theory. It’s a legitimate concern. And the process should probably be changed, both to ensure that people have better access to registers and to ensure that those signing petitions in support of a project understand the implications of doing so.
But don’t call direct democracy a “loophole” just because you disagree with a decision that you think is uninformed.
A mini museum (and souvenir shop) to Gilles Villeneuve on Crescent St. during Grand Prix weekend
During the Grand Prix weekend, I noticed that this bar on Crescent St. had been converted into a museum honouring Gilles Villeneuve, the guy from whom the circuit the race takes place on gets its name.
There were photos of Gilles, videos of Gilles, and some original items in a section roped off lest anyone consider actually touching them. They were brought in from the Gilles Villeneuve Museum in Berthierville for the occasion.
Oh, and there was the souvenir stand. In fact, it seemed the entire point of it was to sell memorabilia related to Gilles Villeneuve. But I’ll give them some slack. It’s not like I paid anything to get in.
And hey, full-page colour ads pay my salary, so I’m not going to complain.
There was something I read recently (and, of course, can’t find now that I want to link to it) about car companies wanting to stop having Canadian firms develop their own marketing campaigns. Instead, they could just use U.S. ads in Canada. This is a pretty good reason not only to keep Canadian-specific ad campaigns, but locally-focused ones.
The Sierra Club of Canada is complaining about a series that appeared in Canwest newspapers over the past few weeks sponsored by Shell Canada about the environment and the oil sands in Alberta. (The series also ran in the Toronto Star.)
Their complaint is that the advertisement, like most advertorials, tries to pass itself off as news. It’s got headlines and sidebars just like a newspaper page. It’s not obviously trying to sell anything, but instead is presenting information in a journalistic sense. And the word “advertisement” doesn’t appear anywhere.
Instead, it’s described as a “special Canwest information feature on climate change, in partnership with Shell Canada”, lending Canwest’s name (and, presumably, its journalistic integrity) to the advertorial.
What’s interesting to me is that the Sierra Club isn’t complaining to Canwest or to a press council or the Canadian Association of Journalists or Canadian Newspaper Association. Instead, they’re complaining to Advertising Standards Canada.
In other words, they’re not arguing that the newspaper acted unethically. They’re arguing that the advertiser acted unethically, and they’re appealing to the advertiser’s code of ethics.
It really says something, I think, when an advertiser is expected to have better journalistic ethics than a major newspaper chain.
The Sierra Club’s complaint is essentially one about labelling. It’s not labelled as an advertisement or advertorial, but as a “special information feature”, which could mean anything and isn’t clear.
Canwest’s response, to Canadian Press and others, is this:
Canwest communications director Phyllise Gelfand said the stories were printed in a different typeface and laid out in a different style than the rest of the paper. Shell’s “partnership” was referred to at the top of the page.
“That’s enough,” she said. “The average reader would notice the difference.”
I don’t agree. I’m a (former) newspaper editor, and a media critic, and it’s tough for me to understand sometimes what is editorial and what is advertising.
Advertisers and newspaper publishers have come up with all sorts of euphemisms to refer to advertorial content (the word “advertorial” itself, for one). Special information feature. Advertising feature. Marketing feature. Joint venture. Advertising section. Do any of these really clearly say “advertisement” to you, the average reader?
Of course, if clarity were the goal, it would just come out and say “advertisement”. But the goal isn’t clarity, it’s confusion. It’s for the advertiser to piggyback on the journalistic integrity of the publication and convince readers that the publication somehow endorses what’s being said.
And newspapers are only to happy to comply, sacrificing their integrity bit by bit for short-term financial gain.
Saw this ad in the paper today. It’s nice that MoneyGram is willing to support athletes going to the Games, not to mention athletes from another country – and advertising it in a Canadian newspaper. But, of course, the Jamaican Bobsled Team gets support from all corners of the globe (at least ever since Cool Runnings came out).
Newspaper advertisements – both in print and online – often suffer from failure of context, where the ad seems inconsiderate next to specific kinds of news stories (usually bad ones).
In newspapers, it tends to happen because advertisers don’t know what copy will appear next to their ads, and copy editors often (for good reason) don’t know what ads will appear next to their copy. The most obvious example is an ad for an airline next to a story about a plane crash (which is why airlines regularly pull their ads after plane crashes, and editors are told not to put plane crash stories next to airline ads).
The Globe and Mail Jan. 20 Pages A8-A9
In today’s Globe and Mail, American Express has one of those special-order ads, the ones with a weird shape that dominate pages without filling them, purposefully leaving holes for editorial copy so that readers’ eyes will stay on the page.
The ad reads: “Tired of standing in line?” (or, more accurately, “Tired of standing in liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine?” – the lower-case “I”s like little stick figures weaving across the two-page spread), with a kicker that talks about travel (it doesn’t say so explicitly, but the assumption is plane travel for a vacation).
You can probably figure out where this is going by now.
It’s not just an ad fail, it’s a huge, spectacular double fail filling a two-page spread in the middle of the A section of Canada’s national newspaper. Making fun of standing in line is cute anywhere in a newspaper except next to a picture of starving Haitians beating each other up for the necessities of life. And having an ad about vacation travel works everywhere except next to a piece on how the airport is congested at the most awful place on the planet right now.
It’s not like it was a massive coincidence that this stuff ended up on this page. Haiti coverage is all over this paper, and has been for the past week.
So, then, I have to ask: Did no one at American Express Canada (wow that’s a silly name) think for a moment that the holes they left for editorial content might be filled by news from a disaster that’s already a week old, and that such coverage might not play well with their campaign? Did no one in the Globe’s advertising department put two and two together?
This is the risk you run when you book these kinds of ads, especially in the A section. Advertiser beware.
The reason, of course, is simple: poverty doesn’t pay.
It’s one of those unfortunate realities of the media that, no matter how many barriers you put up between editorial and advertising, there will always be pressure for the latter to affect the former, and a tendency for that wall to slowly crumble.
One prime example of this (and it’s not a recent development) is so-called “special sections”. Long ago, some newspaper advertising department genius discovered that you’re more likely to attract advertising if the editorial content appeals to the advertiser.
Because automotive companies have among the largest advertising budgets, special sections related to cars are among the most prevalent. In fact, most newspapers have multiple automotive sections every week, even now despite their shrinking sizes. Other attractive topics include sports, employment, real estate, investing, travel, health, home electronics and fashion.
In some cases, the idea of editorial freedom is chucked out the window completely and the section designated “advertorial” (or the more nuanced “special advertising section” or other euphemisms for such). In others, that wall between editorial and advertising is maintained, and the advertisers have no say in the content, except, of course, that it be on a certain topic.
And that’s the problem, because not all topics have big-money advertisers willing to bankroll newspaper sections. Books sections are disappearing from newspapers because book publishers don’t have large advertising budgets. Poverty doesn’t have a financial backer, which is why you never see special sections about it. Homeless shelters don’t have large advertising budgets (that won’t change no matter how many people subscribe to this blog), and neither do so many issues that don’t involve people buying expensive things. Forget reporting on international issues, human relationships, political corruption, the food industry, philosophy, science or other matters that don’t involve excess consumption. Instead, they all have to share space in the cramped, overworked general news section, along with the political horse-race stories and cop briefs.
The environment is a bit of an exception to this. A lot of advertisers are pushing green initiatives, either because they think they’ll make money off of it or just because they’re trying to drum up some good cred. But otherwise, money is a more important factor than importance. That’s why there’s no special section on science but two on RRSPs and one on golf.
The problem is only getting worse as newspapers cut back. Choosing between a books section that loses a lot of money and an automotive section that pays for itself, newspapers will keep the latter.
Contrast the special sections in commercial newspapers with the special sections in student newspapers and the differences show clearly. The student paper I worked for had special sections on gender, sexuality, disability, poverty, and all sorts of other topics that don’t usually get special attention in the mainstream media.
Mainstream media, that is, except Le Devoir. That’s why it’s so small. It could make a lot of money filling its pages with advertiser-friendly fluff, but it has chosen to build a stronger wall to protect its editorial side. Either that, or it’s just being particularly hoity-toity about the type of content it produces.