Canada is not soft. Our hearts are stronger than most.

When I was 9 years old and living in the (then) Toronto suburb of Scarborough I was chowing down on Chinese food with my parents, and an East Indian family.

Our host was a man named Joe Pereira.

Joe and my Dad, Joseph O’Mara, became friends after being coworkers at a Scarborough insurance company.

I didn’t think much about it at the time but now I’m wondering if the Caucasian managers, adjusters and office folk thought, without saying it out loud, “Joe is friends with that Paki?”

We’re talking about the early ’70s.

At school, we told Paki jokes. And African American jokes that painted them as people with big lips who couldn’t possibly own anything unless they had stolen it. Stick their lips to a wall. What do you call a (n word) with a new bike? A thief.

I don’t know if comments were made behind Dad’s back. I’m hoping not. His managers did give us Leafs tickets a few times a year, mostly for games against the likes of the California Golden Seals.

That’s Reggie Leach, I’m a Flyers fan. Leach is First Nations, Ojibwe.

Dad always sided with the targets of abuse or anyone he felt was being unfairly maligned, Maybe it’s because he had a neurological disorder similar to MS. As much as he laughed at “A Fish Called Wanda”, Joe O’Mara cringed over every scene that featured Michael Palin’s stuttering character.

I know what Dad was thinking. There’s nothing amusing about stuttering. I have a disorder, so does he.

Dad would have slayed people on social media.

That ridiculous “Canada is soft” rant circulating on Facebook? Dad would have ripped it to shreds.

Canada is not soft. It’s a nation of strong willed , tougher-than-most people. We are resilient, We appreciate the support of our neighbours when things aren’t going so well. We donate to local food banks, and to causes around the globe.

We love our country, and those aboard suffering through civil wars, drought and dictatorships.

I was born in Manchester, England. So, imagine if, in 1965, the Canadian government had said my family was not welcome here. Your home is being appropriated for a new motorway, tough darts.

One of my best friends in life is a man I met over 30 years ago. Chinese, but American born. His family owns may California properties including Seabowl in Pacifica. Could have bowl there for hours and hours for free but I thanks to my “Cuz”I just drank and ate for free. My Cuz was drafted to fight in Vietnam. Deserted. Ended up in Wiarton, Ontario (home of that famous groundhog) and married a local girl.

One of my favourite Facebook friends is Farah Nasser. A few years back, Farah was diagnosed with polyarteritis nodarosa, which affects “the medium-sized arteries, which become swollen and damaged from being attacked by rogue immune cells.

Admission from yours truly. I developed a crush on Farah back when she anchored the weekend news on City TV. Dad had a crush on Lisa LaFlamme.

The apple does not fall far from the tree.

Facebook is full of extremes. If I am here and you are way over there and there’s no chance of us meeting in the middle, farewell. Unfriend me. I will not be offended. Call me a snowflake. Maybe I am, If that means standing up for those who are being attacked simply by the colour of their skin or because you think white British or European immigrants are more Canadian than a Syrian refugee escaping atrocities we thankfully have never even imagined….

No, not gonna go there.

Pictured above is Uncle Ming’s Chinese Restaurant in Wasaga Beach. I moved to the beach in 2007 and back then, the storefront was not very inviting. Mom moved to Wasaga just after Christmas that year and, after my twice-a-year church visit, we had lunch at Uncle Ming’s. It was the only restaurant open on Christmas Day.

Too early to cook the turkey so we went there for a drink. Mom said, “They’re a nice family, why don’t we give them some business??

Their son was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Very cute. So we ordered the special chow mein.

Uncle Ming’s has renovated since then. Apparently it was a strip joint 20 years ago and the stage is still there in the unoccupied section.

If you thought Canada was a better place in which to live or raise a family, welcome. We celebrate our diversity. You can drive down Markham Road in Scarborough, stop at the traffic light and see women in hijabs protecting adorable children from ongoing motorists and think…

They are Canadian and happy to be here.

You feel the same way.

My family had the choice to move a few blocks away. We wouldn’t have been threatened in any way. They could have been murdered, jailed or oppressed.

We are one. A proud nation, envied around the globe.

Soft? No, tough as nails, especially on a hockey rink, but with hearts bigger than Lake Superior.

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Willy Wonka and Captain Picard rage against…everything!

What do Jean-Luc Picard, Willy Wonka, the Dos Equis guy, Ned Stark and Chris Rock have in common?

Their images are used in memes to underscore feelings of shock, outrage, sarcasm or condescension, often out of context.

Chris Rock is one of my favourite comedians. He’s sharp. Somehow I don’t think he gives a hoot about Baby It’s Cold Outside, yet his photo has been meme’d to suggest Rock thinks you are an idiot for being offended by that tune, and remaining a rap fan despite the many hoe and bitch references in hip hop songs.

Jean-Luc, care to weigh in?

“What the fuck…”

Thanks JP, we’ll get back to you.

This comparison is, in the words of another Star Trek character, illogical.

It suggests anyone offended by “what’s in this drink” is okay with “fuck that bitch.” Really? They’re in the same demographic?

Yes, the meme is intended to point out that rap lyrics are far worse than the wordplay of an old Christmas classic (that’s not even about the holidays) and yes, they can be. Every genre from rock and blues to heavy metal has had suggestive content but that doesn’t mean you condone every line.

HEY, YOU’RE CRAZY, BITCH!

I like Buckcherry. I was offended by Crazy Bitch. It was lazy writing. They were pandering and, rather than making an attempt at juvenile humour a la AC/DC or KISS, Buckcherry went straight to fucks, bitches and crazy bitches who fuck so good.

And they knew those words would be bleeped on commercial radio.

My problem with the memes is that many in the Facebook world will take them at face value.

Did you see what Chris Rock said about that Christmas song? Fuckin’ A!

So many…some are friends, others casual acquaintances…post and repost the most outrageous content and an OMG without having clicked on the link. They don’t have time to discover whether the source is legitimate, click bait or batshit crazy propaganda.

Gotta spread the word if only (or mainly) to piss off the snowflakes.

The Wikipedia entry for snowflake says that, while the term was coined to indicate an overly sensitive and easily offended person, well…get ready to slap your forehead, Captain!

WHAT THE…

Snowflakes can be found all over the political spectrum.

Those expressing disgust and outrage at the damn liberals over something they claim to be trivial (“it’s just a song, stop making a big deal of it”) are being snowflakes.

What say you, Willy Wonka? Oh there he is with that familiar, condescending “tell me more” expression.

HOLD ON THERE, GRANPA JOE!

In the actual movie scene, Wonka isn’t being sarcastic at all. He asks the children if they’d like to see “the most secret machine in the entire factory.”

Here’s an excerpt from the piece linked below.

“He responds with a gleeful ‘would you like to see?’ before pausing to look at the children. It’s that face, of barely concealed delight at his own invention, that was used for the meme.”

https://mashable.com/2016/08/29/gene-wilder-meme/#d6FWQEzp98qW

How about that, Ned Stark?

“One does not simply…

…take a photo out of context and use it to rage against whatever is irking you at this moment.”

Just don’t let on you know he’ll be murdered at the end of season one. That would put a damper on things.

ME: Can I buy you a beer, Ned?

NED: What’s in this drink?

ME: Why, the beer promoted by the most interesting man in the world!

Who was dropped from Dos Equis TV ads in 2016 due to the sluggish sales. The company felt the spots were focused mainly on Jonathan Goldsmith’s character and not enough on their product.

WELL, IT WASN’T AS HORRIBLE AS BUD

I tried Dos Equis a few times. Meh. Give me a Keith’s any day. The advertising worked on me with lines like this:

If opportunity knocks, and he’s not home, opportunity waits.

The flavour? Not so much. Bland, and far from the most interesting beer in the world.

I stayed thirsty…for a better pint.

I’ll end this blog with something that has offended me, which takes a lot of doing. I may be labelled as a snowflake but I don’t think every kid in soccer deserves a trophy so there!

Anyway, let’s talk about Captain Picard’s “what the fuck” memes. Star Trek: The Next Generation ran on network TV and the films were PG.

No F words allowed.

Picard was played by Sir Patrick Stewart, who began his career doing Shakespeare and, I could be wrong, might prefer classier ways for his likeness to be shared on social media.

 

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Don’t kill your radio campaign with “what the client wants”

I started my radio copywriting career in 1989 and once overheard two reps talking about “What the client wants.”

“I don’t care if all he does for 30 seconds is say his name over and over,” the sales rep said, “as long as he pays his bill.”

As a business person you may be thinking, “I knew it! They just wanted my money and didn’t care about getting more customers through my door. Son of a…”

THAT WAS THEN

Granted, the mainstream advertising world was different back then. No internet competition, no Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, streaming services or satellite radio. You had two main options: radio and newspaper.

Your competitor was on the local station so you felt the need to combat him or her and, even if you weren’t convinced radio worked (it does if you do it right), you gave it a shot.

Get Maraca Media writing for you, email: johnnymaraca@rogers.com

If your campaign failed, there’s a good chance the rep and creative team did want you requested and, unless you had writing experience, that resulted in spots that were ignored by the listeners.

Suppose you dined at high-end steakhouse and asked the server to have the chef pour chocolate sauce on your strip loin, just before serving it. I know, crazy.

But it’s “what the customer wants!”

THE FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE

And that, sadly, is why so many radio ads are all about the client and don’t get the job done. The rep asked for your input and you struggled to come up with copy points.

“Um…we’ve been in business 20 years…friendly, personalized service…we’re open 7 days a week…”

“Great,” said the rep. “I’ll give this to our writer.”

“Oh, can I add our website, follow us on Facebook…and our phone number.”

Yikes, the friggin’ phone number. Unless the last four digits are 50-50, or super easy to remember like…

feel free to sing it, longtime Toronto radio fans…967-11-11, phone Pizza Pizza, hey hey hey…

 

NEVER INCLUDE YOUR PHONE NUMBER IN A RADIO AD.

It’s 7 seconds out of 30 that should be used instead for persuasion, with a well-crafted script that intrigues, entices and explains the benefits of your products and services.

“What if I repeat the number? They do it on Howard Stern’s show.”

Then you’ve wasted 14 seconds. And you’re not selling boner pills or paying for 60 second ads that play after High-pitch Erik, Tan Mom or Sour Shoes.

Nobody is sitting by the radio with a pen & paper in hand, just in case there’s a deal so amazing they just have to call right now. Chances are they’re checking Facebook or feeding the cat.

Or driving. We want their eyes on the road!

Most people have the ultimate phone book at their fingertips. It’s called Google. Anyone without access to Google is likely in a nursing home, or still uses the actual phone book.

Suppose you sell flooring. Why would anyone need to call you if they’ve never set foot in your store?

“Hello, Jiffy Flooring.”

“Hi, do you sell carpet?”

“Yes.”

“Brown carpet?”

“Yes we do.”

“Great, I’ll be right over!”

“WELL, I’M NOT A WRITER”

So, the lesson is, don’t let the radio station put you on the spot by asking for ideas. You’re not the writer. Explain the benefits of what you sell, why it’s the best choice (other than cliches about the lowest prices and biggest selection) and what customers like about you.

A decent rep will draw that out of you.

A good writer will suggest ways to reshape what you’ve provided and ask followup questions. He or she will translate tech talk into relatable info and trim the fat.

“It’s winter and…this Christmas (really, not next Christmas?)…spring is just around the corner and…”

BACK TO THAT ORIGINAL “I JUST WANT THE COMMISSION” REP

Sure, you can have the announcer say your name over and over to fill 30 seconds because it…

Gets your name out there!

It’s not enough to just get your name out there.

As Dan O’Day said in a seminar I attended several years ago, when this not-so-well regarded man was still alive, Osama Bin Laden’s name is “out there.”

Maraca Media can create scripts for your business or station. Get started by emailing John:  johnnymaraca@rogers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Long live the public library!

“Who goes to libraries anymore?”

That question was posted on a Wasaga Beach news and commentary Facebook page,  adding to a long thread about the downtown plan and a proposed new location for our library.

The current one (pictured above) is tiny. Not “so small you have to go outside to change your mind” but cramped. The aisles are narrow and you’re constantly having to say “excuse me” or turning sideways to let a fellow reader pass.

The biography section is uncomfortably close to the computer station. I’m always back to back with a seated patron who’s taking advantage of free Internet. There are times when l feel like the manager of a call centre.

I’m not checking out whatever you’re checking out, honest!

YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’LL FIND

Despite all that, our library has a surprisingly good collection.

Since transitioning from radio employee to freelance writer, my morning routine has included a lot more reading time, from bios and self help books (like how to be a successful freelance writer) to popular fiction.

I always have a novel on the go.

Wasaga Beach lacks anything resembling a bookstore. Chapters is 45 minus away, in Barrie. You can only purchase books at Walmart, groceries and drug stores. Their selection is severely limited. Best sellers from the same 10 authors, or so it seems.

Then again, I’ve read almost every Stephen King story and few authors have been more popular than the man who gave us The Shining, It, Carrie and dozens more.

WHY THEY SELL TONS OF BOOKS

I’m not knocking Dan Brown, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, David Baldacci and others who top the best seller list year after year. They’re all masterful storytellers who keep us turning the page to find out what happens next.

Walmart can’t devote much space to books, and these days even flea markets have fewer vendors offering paperbacks. Over the years I’ve found many books at the Elmvale Flea Market. The pickings there were pretty slim during the summer of 2018.

Danielle Steel? Of course. She’s as perennial as bargain bed sheets, Harley Davidson t-shirts and cheap sunglasses, oh yeah!

David Mitchell? Not likely, even though Stephen King recommended “Slade House.”

So, guess where I found this one?

My local library.

For free.

Okay, you are required to take them back after 3 weeks (with the option to renew online), but we are so fortunate local libraries still exist.

And just a few blocks away!

Sure, I’ve ordered dozens of titles from Amazon but, even with the discounts that come with an annual subscription, that’s at least $10 spent on a book that will eventually collect dust.

My current, totally free checkouts are “Slade House” (I’m a third of the way through it…highly recommended), Rachel Kushner’s “The Mars Room” and this one by Naomi Klein.

It’s not fiction but a guide for surviving Trump, which makes it as scary as anything Mr. King could imagine.

Three great reads, for free.

The construction of our new, bigger and better library could be a few years away so that will mean many more hours of squeezing past my fellow story-loving residents, and trying not to appear like I’m hovering over those internet users, but so what?

Long live the local library!

 

 

 

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