08/09/2012 12:10 EDT | Updated 10/09/2012 05:12 EDT

Are the War of 1812 Ads Really Appropriate?


I see the opposition parties have finally taken issue with the government for their heavy promotion of the War of 1812 during Olympic television coverage. They are a little late coming to the table on this issue as the initial discussion on Twitter took place back on July 27. The opposition parties are only two weeks behind the ball.

The opposition has gone so far as to accuse the government of "militaristic jingoism." A nice catch phrase to garner media coverage, but, I don't think they have gone that far. The opposition does have a point though on the appropriateness of the ads during the Olympics and the size of the ad buy.

To be fair, the ads are well done, professionally made and are designed to get Canadians interested in this often forgotten conflict. As a bit of a military history buff, I am quite happy to see the government using this year to highlight events around that war, while at the same time reminding Canadians of how we came together in the face of adversity. The ad in question also highlights our First Nation allies who are long overdue the recognition they deserve for the pivotal role the played in that war. The question then is not the ad itself; the real issue is whether or not the Olympics are an appropriate venue for this type of saturation advertising?

I think most people will agree that other than the War of 1812 ads which celebrate an armed conflict (with the implied loss of life and destruction that accompanies a war), the rest of the ads by various sponsors really do celebrate the Olympic spirit. Some are just plain fun to watch, I especially like the Rona screwdriver ad for example.

That really is the key to this discussion. The Olympics celebrate nations coming together peacefully to compete against each other. Whether friend or foe, we can compete on equal terms on the sports fields and not the battlefields. We can celebrate not only our own athletes, but those of other countries including the United Sates. We celebrate winners and even the losers. Look at the support some of the injured athletes received both from fellow competitors and the crowd when they staggered across the finish line. And what about the celebration for those female athletes who attended the games and represented their country for the first time in Olympic competition? Shouldn't we be using our Olympic ad money to celebrate that spirit and sportsmanship instead of one promoting the armed clash between nations?

As mentioned, this discussion started some weeks ago. I found it amusing that back on July 27, after a couple of exchanges on Twitter with another blogger on the appropriateness of these ads I received an email from someone who works in the PMO. Appropriately using his Gmail account and not his government one, he reminded me that "The War of 1812 is also about 200 years of peace between Canada and the U.S." Interesting point, but nowhere does that come across in the ads.

I assume that is a PMO-approved talk point, as it really does sound like something they would put out when they are criticized. But to be factual, we have not been at peace for 200 years. The War started 200 years ago and it ended with signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. However, the last battle is normally considered to have been the battle of New Orleans which was fought on January 8, 1815 -- although there were two others as well. We have a few years to go before celebrating 200 years of peace.

We have so much we could have celebrated that would have reflected the Olympic spirit. A simple ad highlighting the accomplishments of former Canadian Olympic greats would have not only been more appropriate, but would have reminded modern day Canadians of some of our sporting history and successes.