Maraca Media-John O'Mara

Freelance copywriter and blogger, shakin' and rockin' it

Category: Blog (page 1 of 34)



I play tennis, volleyball, slowpitch and fastpitch softball and it’s amazing my left thumb still functions.

I’ve managed to avoid thumb injuries on the courts and fields.

But, I use said digit to scroll and scroll and scroll my iPad screen through dozens of Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.

Share or repost this. No. There’s a good chance someone halfway around the world is getting paid by the click and exploiting a sad-faced little doggie to boost his income.

Maybe the puppy lover is also the blackmailer who crafts those grammar-challenged emails.


Let’s call him Sergei from Siberia.

“Hmm, what do I do today?” Sergei ponders his options. “Do I create a meme that will piss people off and force them to share with an OMG? Cha-ching! Or will type: I am SERIOUS do not ignore this email, I see you sick perv and I am now wanting to send your video to all your contacts. Do not INRAGE me I am fully knowing you are being happy to avoid embarrassment. You must send me $7,000 in Bitcoin and I will delete the files.”

Well, thanks for ensuring I never use Bitcoin, Sergei. 

“Bitcoin, the preferred choice of thousands of blackmailers and scammers around the world!”

So, back to Facebook.

It’s giving me carpal tunnel from scrolling past the political rants and posts expressing outrage over whatever until I stop to check out an animal rescue video. They pulled the baby elephant out of that river!

I’m not being sarcastic in the latter case. I get misty-eyed when those creatures are reunited with their mothers.


I enjoy viewing photos of my overseas relatives and proud parents holding their newborns, and finding out what’s happening in the lives of friends who live far away.

But Facebook is full of time-sucking crap.

There’s that fucking MAGA kid again.

Think of the hours spent debating a story that would not have existed without camera phones, Facebook and Twitter. A non story. Whether you thought he treated the old man like a character at Disney World (look guys, an Indian!) or felt the teen was blameless…

All we got was a Zapruder-style video analysis that led to the inevitable name calling and insults.


Here’s a snippet from the Tech Crunch piece linked below:

The assholes out there are very real, and often their behavior is indeed hateful. Sure, you don’t have all the context. You never have all the context. But sometimes you don’t need all the context, and sometimes even when you have it, it only reinforces the cries of outrage and hate you see flying in from all sides, from your friends, from your acquaintances, endlessly retweeted and shared.

And that’s why I suffer from Facebook Fatigue.

During the last municipal election, The Wasaga Facebook news and commentary (umm, bitching) page featured non-stop attacks on the incumbent mayor and his opponent. The posts were often personal and nasty.

I felt bad for both of them. 

Jarod Lanier thinks we should all quit social media. Here’s a quote from the article linked below:

His most dispiriting observations are those about what social media does to politics – biased, “not towards the left or right, but downwards”. If triggering emotions is the highest prize, and negative emotions are easier to trigger, how could social media not make you sad?

Filling you with sadness, depression, anxiety and rage. That should be part of Facebook’s mission statement, right below “It’s free and always will be!”

I wish Zuck’s World was a place where people were informed or at least felt they had a grasp of the situation, then reacted.

Yeah I know, what colour is the sky in mine?

Facebook IS free so I am free to scroll past anything that’s guaranteed to make me angry, and to avoid keyboard battles with folks who spend their days scouring the internet for proof of my cluelessness.

This is Ringo, my cockatiel. Cute little fella, huh?

His crest is sticking up, which means he’s worried or apprehensive. 

Ringo says, and I agree…post more bird videos!





“I really want my radio ad to stand out!”

Your message can stand out, even if it’s one of three, four or more in a cluster.

Let’s start with the wrong way to get attention.

I shall whisk you back to the early ’90s when young John was asked to write spots for a furniture warehouse. One with “the best prices…amazing deals,” and every week a new sale, blowout or clearance event.

This was before email. You phoned the client to get copy. This particular fellow (who later became a woman) proposed starting his ads with a police siren because, “THAT will get the listener’s attention.”

It did. In the wrong way.


The radio station received calls from angry listeners. The siren caused some to pull over and others to check their review mirrors for an ambulance or firetruck.

Initially,  I scoffed at the idea. Seriously, they thought it was a real emergency?


Imagine you’re behind the wheel, trying to focus on your fellow drivers, pedestrians and traffic lights. That friendly radio announcer promises to return after a short break and then…

It’s the police! Law enforcement, not the band that gave us Roxanne.

After a few seconds you realize it’s part of the commercial. You’re pissed! How dare they jolt you like that!


Here’s the worst part of that scenario, if you’re the advertiser. You’ve angered that potential customer to the point where they resent you for tricking them.

You mad them take notice, oh yes, but in a very annoying way and proceeded to hit them with mattress specials and deals on appliances.

So, am I saying you shouldn’t begin a spot with sound effects?


If they set the scene, go ahead. Bubbles for a hot tub. A sizzling steak for a restaurant. Children laughing for an indoor playground. They need to relate to the business and engage the audience.

Sound effects should enhance the message, not be the main feature.

Over the years, I’ve been handed or sent many requests from reps looking for “something that stands out. We really want to impress him/her.”

Translation? The client is new to radio and isn’t sure the ads will work so let’s blow them away with sound effects, maybe echoes or reverb, and a commercial that’s heavy on razzle dazzle.

By the way, I write to boost sales for all sizes of businesses. The store owner who can only afford $100 a month deserves great copy as well.


You know what really makes a spot stick out? An honest, solid beginning.

Saying something that matters to the listener.

“You can lose 20 pounds by Easter.”

“You can cut your energy costs by 20 percent.”

Openings like that get attention. The audience is intrigued and says, “tell me more.”

They listen to the next 25 seconds.

Instead of mentally tuning out until the next song or weather report. Or swearing at the radio, changing the station and vowing never to support the advertiser that got their attention by duping them.

Get John to write for you or add him to your staff on a freelance basis. Email:



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.

We were young and ignorant.

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 escaped from Oakland to win two Stanley Cups in Philadelphia. 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 neuromuscular 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.

The aforementioned Facebook post suggests Canada spends far too much on foreign aid when, in fact, our nation has been criticized around the world for not giving enough.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives sent more dollars abroad (higher percentage of GDP) than the current government does.

We love our country, and anyone suffering through civil wars, drought and dictatorships in other countries.

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 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.

Farah is a Muslim, born in Mississauga. Here’s link to her Global News series, “First Time I Was Called…”

Cleary, we haven’t progressed much in terms of racial tolerance. That Facebook plea to “help our own at home,” slash foreign aid and halt immigration is a sad reminder.

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

The apple does not fall far from the tree. We like smart women.

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.


If you believe Canada is 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.

Back in Manchester, my family had the choice to move a few blocks away. We wouldn’t have been threatened in any way. Recent refugees 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.

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.


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!


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.


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.”

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.


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.


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…”


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:

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!”


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…



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?”


“Brown carpet?”

“Yes we do.”

“Great, I’ll be right over!”


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…”


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:













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