Lest we for­get

Valley Journal Advertiser - - OPINION -

Each week, CBC Ra­dio ad­ver­tis­ing colum­nist Bruce Cham­bers delves into ad cam­paigns – past and present. Much of his com­men­tary is his­tor­i­cal – show­ing how con­sumers were ma­nip­u­lated over the years and warn­ing us about sim­i­lar ad cam­paigns to­day.

In a timely seg­ment this week, the ‘Ad Guy’ re­veals how at­tempts to cash in on Re­mem­brance Day have largely back­fired in Canada and else­where. There is usu­ally an­gry re­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia, from cit­i­zens, politi­cians and vet­er­ans’ groups, de­nounc­ing ef­forts to ad­ver­tise prod­ucts through the sac­ri­fices of our men and women in uni­form.

How is it pos­si­ble to be taste­ful by con­nect­ing Re­mem­brance Day with mat­tress sales, used cars or the sea­son’s hottest toys?

Is it any won­der com­pa­nies and ad­ver­tis­ers are con­fused when gov­ern­ments can’t agree if Nov. 11 de­serves to be a hol­i­day? On­tario, Que­bec, Man­i­toba and Nova Sco­tia don’t ob­serve Re­mem­brance Day as a statu­tory hol­i­day. Be­cause it falls on a Satur­day this year, P.E.I. and the Yukon ob­served Mon­day, Nov. 13 as a hol­i­day – while hold­ing usual ob­ser­vances on Satur­day. Mon­day, Nov. 13 is a govern­ment-only hol­i­day in New­found­land and Labrador, Al­berta and Saskatchewan.

There should be one na­tional, statu­tory ob­ser­vance for Re­mem­brance Day – a day that should have far more rel­e­vance and im­por­tance for Cana­di­ans than, for ex­am­ple, Vic­to­ria Day, Box­ing Day or an Au­gust civic hol­i­day. A na­tional hol­i­day would help en­sure that all Cana­di­ans give Re­mem­brance Day the rev­er­ence it de­serves.

Many com­pa­nies are dis­creet – wait­ing un­til af­ter Nov. 11 to launch ma­jor Christ­mas shop­ping cam­paigns – al­though hol­i­day dis­plays and prod­ucts have been vis­i­ble for many weeks. Shop­ping on Nov. 11 just doesn’t go over very well with many Cana­di­ans.

Not so in the United States, where Vet­er­ans Day is like Thanks­giv­ing Day or Christ­mas, or where there is ap­par­ently no prod­uct or cat­e­gory that is off lim­its. Cham­bers cites one jar­ring ex­am­ple where the ad sounded some­thing like this: “. . . Vet­er­ans, we salute you. In your hon­our, (this store) and Smith and Wes­son gun man­u­fac­tur­ers have teamed up to re­duce fac­tory sale prices on firearms even fur­ther.” Is it any won­der Amer­i­cans love their guns?

In the U.S., Nov. 11 is a pop­u­lar shop­ping day for vet­er­ans, reg­u­lar mil­i­tary and civil­ians. Amer­i­cans like to spend their Vet­er­ans Day in stores and malls in­stead of ceno­taphs and memo­ri­als. It might help ex­plain the Amer­i­can psy­che and why the na­tion is pre-oc­cu­pied with guns and gun rights.

On Re­mem­brance Day this year, as Cana­di­ans gather in grow­ing num­bers around ceno­taphs and memo­ri­als, let’s re­flect on the na­tion’s heroic wartime sac­ri­fices such as the 75th an­niver­sary of Dieppe; the 100th an­niver­sary of Vimy Ridge and the 100th an­niver­sary of Pass­chen­daele.

When we fail to hon­our our war dead and for­get their sac­ri­fices, it in­creases the risk of ig­nor­ing the hor­rors that war brings. Surely, we can sac­ri­fice an hour for one day a year to re­mem­ber them?

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