Oops – I Did It Again. Sorry Andrew.

One year ago, I may have mentioned that my fellow countrymen (or at least a select group of Canadian marketers) had their heads up a part of their anatomy at SES Toronto. Andrew Goodman afterwards promised to force feed me Canadian politeness serum before he put me in front of another Toronto crowd. And Andrew, I want you to know I tried. I really tried. But then Rogers missed the boat in an incredibly stupid way, and, well..I may have said something similar again. I’m sorry, I really am.

Last year, I tore up the Ontario Tourism Board for not using search effectively, prompting a multipart debate with them in my Search Insider Column. First, I said they weren’t doing search. They said they were and I didn’t know what I was talking about. I looked at what they were doing and amended my stance: they were doing search, just not doing it very well. I offered free advice. They declined my offer. We went home in seperate cars. I didn’t get a card on Valentine’s Day. I think this time, it’s really over between us.

This year, having a hard time believing that Andrew was daring to put me in front of a Toronto crowd again, I decided to stay on safer ground and give a rather non controversial tour of why the Golden Triangle is the way it is, using results from several recent studies. But the main theme of the study was that relevance and the presentation of recognized brands are both critical elements in the Golden Triangle for commercial searches. I was finishing my slide deck on the day of the announcement that the iPhone was finally coming to Canada. Rogers would be the exclusive carrier. I just knew there would be a corresponding search spike and I thought this would be a great example of how to utilize search effectively. The following Google Trends Graph shows just how big this spike was:


I searched for “iPhone” and what did I find? Nary a mention of Rogers. No ad, no organic listing.


I went to their site and other than a mysterious and unusable link off their home page that went to a 3 line media release, there was no information. Surely, Rogers couldn’t be this stupid, could they? But alas, they were.

So, I amended my slide deck to include the examples. And yes, I may have got a little hot under the collar at SES again, and I’m pretty sure I said something not so polite. But you know what? I’m getting sick and tired of going to the business capital of Canada year after year and seeing that the major Canadian brands are still miles behind the rest of the world in search. Do a search for any major consumer product in Canada and almost all the big brands are completely absent. They don’t get it. Or in many cases, their agencies don’t get it. Look, accept the reality. People search. People search because they’re looking to buy things. On June 10, thousands of Canadians searched for information on the new 3G iPhone. I’m suspecting more than a few of them are intending to snap one up July 11. And not one advertiser had the foresight to buy a search ad on what was probably the biggest search day of the year for iPhone, including the exclusive carrier. Correction, one advertiser did…Research in Motion, the maker of the Blackberry.

Maybe being big and stupid worked in Canadian advertising up to now, but it won’t work in the future. You have to understand that Canadian’s aren’t stupid when it comes to the internet. We’re amongst the world’s biggest Internet users. Our early lead in terms of high bandwidth penetration is slipping (another sign of sheer stupidity) but we still go online more than almost anyone in the world. Yet Canadian advertisers are avoiding search, turning the Golden Triangle into an advertising slum. Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Canadian offices are slamming their heads into brick walls, wondering when Canadians will finally get it. They’ve all asked me. And frankly, I’m tired of apologizing for Canadian marketers. Yes, we’re a cautious country. Yes, we’re deliberate. But it’s gone beyond that. Now, there are no more excuses. Roger’s absense from the search page on June 10 was inexcusable. It was either stupid or incredibly arrogant. It was one of Canada’s best known brands telling thousands of Canadian’s looking for information on buying an iPhone one of two things:

  1. We’re huge and we have a monopoly so why do we have to spend a handful of our advertising dollars actually giving you useful information? We know you’re going to buy from us because you have no where else to go. And oh, by the way, we’re going to charge you whatever we want, or;
  2. Sorry, we just don’t get this whole internet thing. You mean people actually search for information online? Huh..imagine that.

I’m passionate about being a Canadian. I am tremendously proud of my country. But I’m also passionate about search. And in this one area, Canadians are ridiculously behind the curve.

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