Lest we forget
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?