Friday, April 10, 2009

Canadians Talking Smack

I've always liked Canadians.

They're generally friendly, non-violent and mild-mannered. Sort of like Mormons, minus the religion thing. Sure, they have some goofy sports (curling, anyone?) and some lame television shows (anyone remember The Beachcombers on Channel 9 in Windsor?), but their biggest fault seemed to be that they were a little dull, which is just what you'd expect from a suburb of the U.S. masquerading as country. (Please note that I'm not including French Canadians in this description; those dudes are crazy!)

But little did I know how un-Canadian some folks in Ottawa could be. What kind of city creates an advertising campaign proclaiming "This Ain't Flint"? Actually, it's the work of and . No one really expects much from a corporate radio chain and an ad agency, but this is really pathetic. It's not even original; the bulk of the material in their video is stolen from Roger & Me, minus the humor. Here's a line from the campaign that's guaranteed to infuriate: "You are not an unemployed autoworker. You control your own destiny. This ain't Flint!" (No idea what the creepy doll featured prominently is all about.)

Perhaps even worse, after tearing down Flint to make Ottawa feel good about itself, they try to pretend there was no harm intended, perhaps realizing that Flintoids, unlike most Canadians, are often well-armed and decidedly not mild-mannered:
"We are incredibly fortunate to be somewhat insulated from this madness, so let’s take the time to celebrate that, focus on the positives, and get this thing moving again.

"We are not preaching ignorance. We are not na├»ve, and to the good people of Flint, Michigan – we bear no malice and offer condolences in these hard times.

"But let’s face it everybody – we live in Ottawa, and it’s pretty damn good. So let’s go with that."
Sorry, apology not accepted. Perhaps you'd like to let the geniuses who created the campaign know how you feel. (I realize a controversy is probably exactly what they want, but it's still cathartic to get things off your chest.) Here's the email:

Better yet, let the Ottawa Tourism office know what you think of the "This Ain't Flint" campaign. Here's that email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

UPDATE: MediaStyle has an online interview with Tony Lyons, the man responsible for the campaign. Tony's clearly clueless: "We don’t intend to offend anyone, and I don’t think the campaign could be seen to be in any way offensive, except maybe to doll enthusiasts."

ANOTHER UPDATE: There's an elaborate discussion of the campaign on Your Dirty Answer.


  1. Talk about an unholy alliance — ad agencies and commercial radio stations.

  2. This is truly sad for Flint. Until now, Flint was the undisputed leader in North America for goofy civic PR campaigns. clearly sets a new standard. Let's face it. They're right. Ottawa is civilized. Flint is not. Ottawa is dull. Flint is not. But until now, we didn't realize that Ottawa is competing for Flint in illiteracy. The campaign's lack of professional polish is laughable. It's like, totally jibe (you have to visit the site to get that joke).

    I haven't LOLed like this in a long time. I mean, really, Ottawa has to hack Flint to improve its attitude? Well, let's extend an olive branch. How about a cultural exchange? We can send Flintstones to Ottawa to show them how to properly field dress urban bunnies. Ottawans can come to Flint and bore us to death. We can export our best and brightest plasma donors (surely, it's done better in Flint). Ottawans can help us improve our illiteracy.

    They can tour our beautiful art museum. We can explore their money museum (apparently, Ottawa has no money, so you have to go do a museum to see it.) They can show us how to translate everything into French, and we can drink ourselves silly in Ottawa and translate everything into drunken gibberish.

    What a great opportunity to restart the CANUSA games. We can compete in joint rolling, beer chugging, endurance beer drinking, bar fighting and gang banging. The possibilities are endless. This will go a long way in closing the yawning cultural and intellectual gap between the obvious splendor of Ottawa and, thanks the Michael Moore, the perception of the deficient human existence that Flintstones and Flint expats expect and enjoy in our industrial paradise.

    I could go on, but I have some plasma to donate.

    P.S. If I didn't offend anyone in Ottawa, I apologize.

  3. I understand what these guys are hitting at, but it's so obvious they've

    Heck...I might have respected these guys if they had taken some shots of the place themselves. After all, I'm sure they could have gotten some shots of 2009 Flint that would have made the 1989 version look positively shiny and new.

  4. How sad...maybe this is Canada's pay back for the comments made on the radio by Billy Bob Ihorton about Canada.



Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at