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A Christmas special for cynics

‘Over 1 million refugees, migrants enter Europe in 2015’; ‘SpaceX rocket makes historic flight’; ‘Ebola effects linger’; ‘Middle East unprepared for climate change’. CBC’s The National has reported some important stories recently (although that last headline is a bit of a no-brainer).

The above four clips have an average airtime that runs just under three minutes. 

And then, there’s this piece: a 10-minute “behind-the-scenes look at the making of WestJet’s latest Christmas ad – an ambitious, do-good, feel-good production that the airline hopes will be its next holiday hit.” When delivered in a classic CBC reporter tone, it almost sounds like a real story.

You can wrap it up however you want – in this case, a look at emotional advertising – but at the end of the news hour, Canada’s only public, national current affairs program handed WestJet a free, feel-good promo that money could buy, but not without devaluing the CBC’s integrity as an objective, public interest-driven media outlet. 

In this case, the CBC was either really nice or really naughty, but either way, we can rest assured that our tax-dollar funded public broadcaster gave the public relations team at WestJet a very Merry Christmas. 

As Mike Mills of studio m, the ad agency behind WestJet’s holiday campaign, put it in the video: “if you can get someone to advertise for you, it’s a lot more value-driven than paying a broadcaster a lot of money to run it for you.”

In a sort of meta-ironic twist of fate, it looks like CBC bought in to the emotional advertising it was trying to cover, unknowingly producing the very value-driven non-ad ad that was discussed in the video.

But I guess that’s okay. Who wants educational content all the time anyway? We all understand everything we choose to understand, and if we talk about Syria too much, how would we ever be able to forget about it? Plus, it’s the holidays. And nothing disrupts peaceful relaxation quite like a regular reminder that peace and relaxation are luxuries enjoyed only by a minority of the world.

So thank you, CBC, for telling me about how a publicly traded company and its ad team buy brand loyalty one miracle at a time with a sleek campaign that has now been going on for years. That sure wasn’t journalism, but boy was it entertaining. 

 

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