3.02.2008

obay: the because-i-said-so drug revealed

Remember the fake ads seen in various southern Ontario locations?

Torontoist did the research and named Colleges Ontario as the source.
Colleges Ontario, an advocacy organization representing twenty-four colleges across the province. The organization would neither confirm nor deny their involvement to either Torontoist or, several days later, The Star, but still told us all to wait a few weeks for...something. As far as mysterious ad campaigns go, this one was almost perfect: only breadcrumbs to trace back to the source, a city left to talk about the ad and its message and what it all meant (which, of course, was precisely the point).

This week, the ads' meaning was revealed. There were new, revised ads, made to look like a message had been plastered over the original: "Luckily, Obay isn't real..." Here's the explanation from Colleges Ontario. You can see all the ads, then mouse over to see the new version.
For many parents, university is the only real path to success. College is the option you "settle for" if you can't get into university. The opinion of college as the lesser alternative has lead to countless teenagers being pressured into a future that isn't right for them.

Colleges Ontario knew they needed to start changing this perception and they called on Smith Roberts Creative Communications, an advertising firm in Toronto.

What developed in the months that followed is the two-part teaser and reveal campaign you see before you. The teaser phase was launched in February 2008 with billboards, transit shelters, bus, subway and radio ads which were spread all over Ontario promoting a new drug called Obay, designed to make parent's wishes for their children a reality.

After the 2-week teaser phase, the final message was revealed: Luckily, Obay isn't real. Unfortunately though, the problem of pushing your kids to do what you want is – especially when it comes to their future. Believe it or not, university isn't the only prescription for success. Help your children explore their options. Visit ontariocolleges.ca.

The campaign was a huge success. Before the teaser phase had ended, the campaign had received extensive news coverage including reports from Global National News, Toronto Star, 24 hours and NOW Magazine, as well as hundreds of other articles and blogs - all dying to find out who was behind the supposed new drug, Obay.

In the US, the words college and university are used interchangeably to mean post-secondary, undergrad education. People with university degrees say "when I was in college," and refer to their "college experience," no matter what type of school they attended. In Canada, as in the UK and other places, colleges are two-year schools that focus on a particular career, as distinct from a four-year university.

I didn't fully understand the difference until I was researching, then training for, my work as a notetaker (which turned out to be the world's shortest career). The notetakers in that program attended classes with hearing-impaired college students studying for careers in early childhood education, animation, TV studio technology, all sorts of trades, all types of allied health fields - a huge variety of careers. The programs include "co-ops," which seem to be the equivalent of an internship or a field placement in the US.

For some students, college is a stepping stone to university, but for all of them, it's an entry to a career. In this sense, job training seems more structured and systematic than it is in the US. Perhaps this kind of thing is more common in the States than I realize. But most people I know either went to college (university) or didn't, then put their careers together in a piecemeal, haphazard way. With the exception of careers requiring graduate degrees, like law or medicine, most people just have a generic degree, then look for work. Students in these focused college programs seem more career-oriented from the start, compared to US college students I have known.

Considering the tiny percentage of US college students who actually care about getting a well-rounded education, as opposed to getting a degree to increase earning potential - and considering the astronomical price of those degrees - the Canadian and British system seems better to me.

In any event, this ad campaign was hugely successful. If the final revelation was a bit anticlimactic, the discussion and speculation were certainly interesting.

7 comments:

Jen said...

Ah, now that is a message I can buy into... better than my knee jerk reaction last week! But, as always, one gets a poor kick from the knee only.

There is definitely a different vibe at colleges vs. universities, the former feeling a bit more high schoolish. But maybe being an older student at a school with no grad students I'm just tapping into seeing fewer people "like me" (i.e.: over 30!).

There's huge confusion now with many now that there are collaborative and bridging arrangements with colleges and universities, and a number of colleges in other provinces are degree granting now.

There was certainly some "2nd class" status among the nursing students here who were at the uni vs those at the college. Whatever, as long as it isn't happening at the admin level when the college collaborative grads are applying for grad school! (Which doesn't seem to be happening).

BTW, not all of the college programs have co-op options, and many of the uni programs do have co-op. But largely, the college programs are more hands-on even in class. Nursing programs, whether uni or college, have huge hands-on components but aren't co-op. There are practica placements, but unlike co-ops we aren't paid (yay tradition...not).

L-girl said...

Interesting. Thanks, Jen!

a number of colleges in other provinces are degree granting now

You mean most colleges don't have degrees? What do you graduate with?

In the US, there's an Associates degree, from a two-year school.

BTW, not all of the college programs have co-op options, and many of the uni programs do have co-op. But largely, the college programs are more hands-on even in class.

Ah ha. So a co-op is what's called an internship in the US? (Does anyone know?) Unpaid work experience and connections?

hazmat said...

The University of Waterloo has an extensive co-op education program. Undergraduates in four-year programs take an extra year to complete their degrees, and they don't get summers off. Six trimesters of work are interleaved with eight at school. UW co-op students are paid by their employers, and salaries usually increase from the first to the sixth work term to reflect academic progress and accumulated work experience.

L-girl said...

Some people thought the drug was real and wanted more information.

And no, I am not surprised. Merely pointing to some evidence of this unsurprising fact.

Jen said...

Universities grant degrees. Colleges grant diplomas or certificates (and now degrees in some programs).

Nursing programs have had a major overhaul in the last 10 years as the 4 year BSc or BN degree are the entry to practice minimum for RNs. Registered practical nursing now the 2 year diploma program. When the degree became the minimum for RNs, colleges had to scramble to affiliate with a university and develop a collaborative to be able to maintain seats & grad output to fill the job market. Bumpy road, but overall most see the increased minimum entry as a good thing for the profession.

Assoc. degrees from 3 year nursing programs aren't recognised here and people emigrating from the US with these have to take the RPN/RN bridge program to work as an RN. I don't know if it is similar for other licensed professions that the 3 year prgms aren't recognised.

(To add to the confusion, a handful of universities (ON/PQ only?) have 3 year degrees--I don't know how they work)

Lastly, internships here (in health care at least) are paid and generally unrelated to your school program, co-ops are paid and part of your school program, practicums are unpaid (at least if you are headed to a *hospital, boo!) and part of your program.

Nursing students, and students in other licensed & registered professions (PT, OT, RPN, MD) fall into this gap where you are an unregulated worker until you graduate. So, the hospitals don't have to pay you until you graduate and you can't be insured with your regulatory body until you write their exam. Granted, students in the MD and RN programs are a liability until finished 3rd year. However, in this household at least, our totally unrepresentative sample of n=1 4th year MD and n=1 4th year RN are totally worth our weight in gold dubloons.

impudent strumpet said...

Ah ha. So a co-op is what's called an internship in the US? (Does anyone know?) Unpaid work experience and connections?

I think in general the word co-op implies that it's more school-administered and the word internship implies that it's more employer-administered. You can have an internship without the involvement of your school, but I don't think you can have a co-op without the involvement of your school. But overall it varies between professions and schools and employers and basically it's called whatever your school/employer calls it. Mine we called by the French name (stage) even in English just because that's what they've always called it. And all of these things can be paid or not depending on the employer's whim and the general practices of the profession.

(To add to the confusion, a handful of universities (ON/PQ only?) have 3 year degrees--I don't know how they work)

In the universities I've been to, a 3-year degree is a regular BA and a 4-year degree is an Honours BA. (This was when OAC still existed, I don't know if it's still the same now). Both kinds of degrees tend(ed) to be available in broader majors, but more specialized majors would have a more specific course of study that was usually four years. You could do either a three-year or a four-year degree in French, for example, but the more specialized Translation program was four-year only. I have no idea what if any different it makes to employers or grad schools.

L-girl said...

Hey all, thanks for the info. Cool.

I think in general the word co-op implies that it's more school-administered and the word internship implies that it's more employer-administered. You can have an internship without the involvement of your school, but I don't think you can have a co-op without the involvement of your school.

Ah yes, that makes sense now.

I've never heard of 3-year degrees. I thought in the US they were all either 2 (community colleges and junior colleges, Associates degrees) or 4 years (BAs). Maybe some of those 2-yr programs have become 3.