Looking Ahead to Spring
Obay...the plot thickens

Two Tales from the TTC

It's still winter.  Seventy (70!) cm of snow have fallen on me and my city since the beginning of February and my whole rant about how I wanted the weather to decide between Spring and Winter and not switch rapidly between the two has given me what I wanted.  Damned fates.


(This is before the snow we got on Monday, that snow bank would be  higher than the van's license plate now).

I will say that it is very pretty (even though it's hard to walk) and the kids love it and are playing outside every night (even though someone "accidentally" took home Emma's snowpants from daycare and have not returned them and it is IMPOSSIBLE to find snowpants in Canada in February) and it is still sweater weather (though I never have time to knit).


Prettiness at U of T (Brainy and I had lunch on those benches this summer)

The bad part about Winter is that I don't ride my bike to work (I don't care what you tell me, I'm not riding on snowy roads with cars) and I have to suffer my commute on the Toronto Transit Commission subways. 

I'm a huge advocate for public transit.  It keeps some of the cars off the roads and out of the way when I ride my bike, it's good for the environment and it is economical compared to car ownership and parking.  However, in the last year I've noticed that either ridership has gone up and/or service frequency has gone down and the subway cars (and buses and streetcars) are always jammed packed with people.  Packed with annoying people who think they deserve personal space or who don't actually move into the middle of the car, but clog up the doors and don't take kindly to me forcing my way in by using my training as a rugby player and generally pushy broad. 

Forgive me, but I NEED to say this.

Walk into the middle of the fucking car for fuck's sake so those of use who get on after you have some fucking room to get in.  Don't hang out in the door.  Don't tell me I'm a bitch for pushing you in further or pushing past you to get into the middle.  Don't think you can do a sudoko or your mascara and that your fare provides you with a meter wide perimeter around your body.  Shove in and suck it up and share the fucking car with the rest of us on the platform.

Now that I have that off my chest, I should start with tale two: a funny thing I saw on this morning's commute to work.  It looked like a run of the mill subway ad, until I read the copy.


When Amy started thinking for herself, we had to nip it in the bud with Obay

From the makers of WhyBecauseISaidYouShould

There was no website, no company name, nothing.  Funny.

With my curiousity in all things popular culture piqued, I did some googling when I got to work and found very little.  Here's another ad:

From the few things I found, it appears that these ads are on public transit spaces only in Canada and there is no web presence for the campaign.



For background/context, in Canada it is illegal to advertise prescription drugs in any way including media ads, free mugs and pencils and prescription pads, inducements for physicians etc.  This is VERY different from the US where it seems like every second there is a new drug ad in your face.  There is a collection of academic research which shows that advertising does change both patient requests and doctors' behaviours in the prescribing of drugs so the ban on advertising makes some sense (I should also note that Canada and the US have different perspectives on the notions of "free speech" within which this advertising ban, while challenged by big pharma, is not a violation of Canadian laws). 

However, there have been a number of ads popping up which mention a drug but do not make any reference to what the drug is for or make any health claims.  They say things like: "Ask your doctor about Celebrex" or "This girl is Flalesse" and bank on consumer awareness that you'll know the first is for arthritis and the second is the Pill.  They are trying to work around the ban and my understanding is that they're succeeding.   And people are complaining.

This Canadian context makes "Obay" much more interesting.  Is it a comment on the "pill for every ill" society we live in?  The idea that we feel that certain social behaviours require a medical behaviour (social anxiety disorder anyone?)  Or is it a test of the advertising laws?  Or a flashy way for an ad company to show off its talents?

I'm not sure, but I decided to add to the very small web discussion and essentially play the game I think the ad is asking me to join. They want to create some sort of buzz (and since transit ads aren't cheap, this is not a minor investment) and I want to see where it goes. 

If you're out and about and see any of these ads, feel free to pass them along.  I probably wouldn't have played if they weren't so clever.  They remind me of this "campaign" (be warned there is music on the site) which is part satire and part "give me money", but is also a great culture jam.


I haven't seen these in Ottawa yet, but I love them. Please keep us posted when the next step of the campaign is revealed!

I've been seeing some in Sudbury -- One with the line: "Is your child starting to think for himself? Nip it in the bud with Obay!" (or something like that). I was wondering about it, too, but didn't get around to looking it up.

My understanding about Canadian laws was that in drug advertisements you could EITHER talk about the effects of the drug OR mention its name, not both. Hence the Viagra ads, or Celebrex, that just show happy people, but don't make any claims for the actual effects of the drug. But my understanding wasn't based on any actual knowledge. So I'm interested that you say the companies technically aren't allowed to advertise at all...

Interesting. I'll have to watch for those. A good reason to take my new camera out with me.

And on the subway rant, my choice idiots are the people who belive their lunch/sports/too-cute-to-be-put-on-the-floor-and-get-dirty bag deserves a seat more than a person does.

Also, that pregnant woman standing in front of you that you're assiduously ignoring while working on the aforementioned sudoku or concentrating on whatever inane sounds are blasting at you from your iPod -- sitting down, of course, because it's hard work doing sudoku or listing to crap while standing?

She wants you to let off your lazy ass and STAND.UP.

*get*. Bah.

I noticed that first "Obay" ad on the streetcar the other day, and would have taken a photos if I could have moved in and way at all (I'm a *good* passenger, and actively push myself into small spaces near the middle and toward the back!) I'm glad you brought it up -- I didn't want to forget about it, and am very curious about what it's agenda is...

I'll be interested to follow up what this ad means. I use a bus, and the people who hang in the back door well and stop me getting off at my stop ARE THE DEVIL'S SPWN!!!

I've noticed those ads too and have wondered about them! And I also feel the same way about transit riders, most of them are flaming rude. I travel on the streetcar with a toddler in a backpack daily and it is a constant battle. No one EVER offers us a seat, people get snarky when I push past them even after I say "excuse me" and "sorry" (even my toddler says "sorry" for goodness sake!). And j, no one ever offered me seats on the subway when I was pregnant, either, except the occasional woman and I used to stick my huge belly right in people's faces. I really think there needs to be a huge public awareness campaign.

And it is ridership that has gone up, not service becoming less frequent.

They're about to revamp the schedules to reduce crowding, though I think it's mostly on buses and maybe streetcars. It starts Sunday, but with the Monday holiday it won't be noticeable until Tuesday, probably (and, warning--apparently they're running a holiday schedule Monday even though 60% of everybody still has to go to work!).

Personally, I haven't noticed much bad behavior, though there's been a very sudden uptick in panhandling on the subway the last few weeks.

I do love some of the subway ads, though. There's a World Wildlife Federation one with an old ad of a woman scrubbing a bathtub that says "A woman's place isn't only in the kitchen!" The WWF tagline says, more or less, "Someday we'll look back at the way we're treating the earth with the same horror and disgust that we view this." Which is nice, but I don't think we've moved as far beyond the underlying ad as they think we have, given the content of 99% of cleaning-and-cooking products commercials. Still, it's a good ad.

Is it possible the ads aren't for pharmaceuticals, but a campaign encouraging parents to discipline (ok, maybe a little strong - maybe guide is a better word) their children and take an interest in their lives? Reminds me of something my parents always told me - "Why, because I said so!" Just a thought.

I would guess the opposite of what Kandy said, which is that the ads are probably intended to encourage free thinking. And make people pay attention. I wonder what they're actually for?

As for those dreadful, awful, intolerable drug ads in every possible media format in the U.S.--AAAAAAAAAHHHHH! I am so sick of hearing about erectile disfunction, incontinence, and anal leakage I can hardly stand to watch t.v. anymore.

I think you have to get past the spelling. Not "Obay" . . . but "Obey" . . . when you look at the context, I'm guessing it's a tongue in cheek poke at parents who want their children to think exactly the same way they do, or do what the parents want them to do. I'm interested to see if something more develops with this ad campaign.

Yeah, I saw one of those ads the other day. And I too wondered what it was about...

I saw the Amy ad on a transit shelter and thought it was art, made to make me look more closely and think about what I assumed I was looking at (an ad for a pharmaceutical). if so, it is brilliant; if however it is a sort of phishing on behalf of pharmaceuticals to take the temperature of public reception to drug ads (I didn't realize these were not allowed, thank goodness!), then I am not so pleased at being manipulated for selfish ends! thanks for all the info about what is going on legally. we'll need to send letters to keep healthy boundaries intact!

One thing I know is not to mess with a rugby chick. No siree.

There is no bicycle riding here either.

Those ads are hilarious! Says the MTA rider from Brooklyn who went through your public transit rant and said, "yep, yep, yeah, check, yep." Exactly the same kind of intolerable behavior here. My idealization of Canada just suffered a hit.

I did a quick google...interesting...I found a website:

The mention commodphiles for which they provide the definition - 1 :lover : one having an affinity for or a strong attraction to an economic good: as a : a product of agriculture or mining b : an article of commerce especially when delivered for shipment c : a mass-produced unspecialized product
2 a : lover : one having an affinity for or a strong attraction to something useful or valued b : CONVENIENCE, ADVANTAGE
3 obsolete : QUANTITY, LOT
4 : lover : one having an affinity for or a strong attraction to one that is subject to ready exchange or exploitation within a market

I was looking at their "pseudo links" too. Seems to be a commentary on our media, consumerism, truthiness and lack of critical thought en masse?

front runner


oops here is the rest


ok so i'm a retard...get over it.


I have noticed my buses being much more crowded. Ridership is definitely up here.

I would support a ban on presciption drug advertising in the US. It drive me crazy to see all the advertisements and I don't think it can possibly be healthy. Don't even get me started on the commercials for having a shorter period or having no period at all.

There is a number that was heard in a radio add by a member of the Unfiction community. 1-888-YOU-OBAY. Find out about our investigation here: http://forums.unfiction.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=24479

funny, and yet . . . not. Keep us posted.
And hey! That's Trinity Quad! I did my masters at U of T and hung out at Trinity a lot. Loved their whole Oxbridge vibe. I'm goofy like that.
Thanks for the memories.

I noticed those ads too this week and stared mystified at them in my car for several minutes. Very clever. To what purpose and why and who, though? I like your read on this, very nice!

OMG obey... stupidest thing ive ever freakin heard of... is there no room for democracy.. is this not dictatorship.. i think children are people too... do grown people not remember when they were children themselves... are they trying to rebel against us.. are they tring to "nip it in the bud" please stfu

yeah, I saw 2 on the subway and i thought maybe it was one of those ads that are spread out over the subway, but I couldnt find the pun or any more info than that it was a behaviour mod. drug.... weird

yeah, I saw 2 on the subway and i thought maybe it was one of those ads that are spread out over the subway, but I couldnt find the pun or any more info than that it was a behaviour mod. drug.... weird

While Jonathan and I were riding the TTC subway this evening after attending the auto show in Toronto, I spotted an Obay™ ad. We both laughed, and J.B. informed me he has seen at least one variation.

Incidentally, your site, in connection with the Obay™ campaign, was mentioned by ThisCanadian.

P.S. Partial freedom of speech is not defensible, because it must rest on what the physically stronger party thinks is acceptable speech--and therefore is censorship, not freedom. By the way, fraudulently shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre is a false argument against free speech because even if it is speech (according to torture advocate Alan Derschowitz, it's akin to pulling a mechanical fire alarm and therefore isn't the expression of an idea), it can be handled by property rights (i.e., the theatre owner can sue the violator).

I read your rant about your train ride and kept saying "yup, yup, same here." I ride the E train every day in Manhattan from Penn Station to work and back. You would NOT believe (or maybe you would) what people do - bring bicycles, open strollers, backpacks the size of another person, during rush hour when there's barely space for bodies. I wouldn't be surprised if they had quietly cut service on your transit - they do that all the time on the MTA.

Obay has been unveiled...


Just thought you'd like to know. :-)

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