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Canadians aren’t the only ones who have to put up with brainless ads from Natural Resources Canada; Americans suffer through them just like we do. Our suffering is greater, of course, because we pay for the damn things, but that doesn’t make them any less irritating for Americans. Today, new proof emerged that the ads are not only annoying, but also ineffective. Does that mean they fully qualify as stupid?

The CBC reports the first round of Canada’s taxpayer-funded $24 million pro-oil advertisements was a complete failure. The reason why was somewhat surprising. Washington-based experts in Canada-U.S. relations say that the campaign was “too Canadian.” Too Canadian? All of a sudden, the quintessence of Canadian identity is the act of marketing crude oil? Perhaps, but that isn’t what these experts meant by the phrase. They said that the ads were too Canadian because they were too polite.

The ads danced around the subject at hand and never communicated their purpose to the American audience. Are you drunk? Doesn’t matter, you’ll sober up reading these statistics. 11% of Americans who saw more than one ad thought that the ads had something to do with Keystone XL. 5% realized that the ads were supposed to promote Canada as an energy supplier. Finally, only 3% thought that the ads were designed to promote Canadian oil. Americans are worldly, intelligent people, so the fact that they had such trouble understanding our ad campaign suggests that we really screwed this up.  Seriously, rebukes aside, we did.


This is the second hit when you search "too Canadian" on Google (images).  Is that better or worse than a dumb ad campaign?  Is it the same thing?Getty

This is the second hit when you search “too Canadian” on Google (images). Is that better or worse than a dumb ad campaign? Is it the same thing?


Thankfully, we can learn a thing or two from our mistakes. First, if you want to sell oil, don’t try to do it by telling the potential buyer that you two are friends. The friendship is completely irrelevant unless you have fallen on such hard times that you need to sleep on your friend’s couch. The whole “do this ‘cause we’re friends” thing falls out of style after elementary school for everyone who isn’t in the mob. Second, if you want to sell someone something that isn’t food, you probably have to be explicit. Subliminal advertising works for fast food restaurants because people’s primal urges take over when they are exposed to nanosecond flashes of a hamburger. Despite Joe Oliver’s questionable claim that it could constitute food, tar sand does not have the same appeal. So, if our government wants to sell our tar, it is going to have to come right out and say it.  If it isn’t willing to do that, then it should just cut the act altogether.

The fact that an ever-slimmer slim majority of Canadians sees Keystone XL in a positive light is one reason to stop these ad campaigns. Yet, even as it declines, Canadian opinion is not the most compelling cause for concern. Consider that 20% of Americans surveyed thought that the U.S government had produced the ads that we paid to post in their country. All of a sudden “too Canadian” sounds like an agreeable problem! Still, it’s worth revisiting the too Canadian point. If ads are annoying, costly, and ineffective, that means they’re utterly stupid. If an utterly stupid ad campaign passes as “too Canadian,” what does that say about us?