For the first several years, my articles on advertising (of which “Chicken art and Canadian Politics” was an example) were written under an assumed name. Of course, Frank Lee MeiDere is also an assumed name, but this was yet a different assumed name, and I only used it because I was the assignment editor, and it didn’t seem right to have the assignment editor also writing a column on advertising — especially when the column often treated advertising in an unflattering and satirical fashion.
Anyhow, in digging out the Chicken Art piece, I ran across “V8 Juice and Canadian Unity,” which ties in V8 Juice with Catwoman, lesbian strip clubs, and the national unity crisis Canada was undergoing at the time (1994).
Since reposting old material is way, way easier than writing new stuff (especially when job searching), I’m copping out and and reposting.
Unlike the previous post, however, there is nothing here that needs explaining to non-Canadian readers — aside from the fact that Canada has several seasons including winter, hockey, and Quebec-threatening-to-separate-from-the-rest-of-the-country.
In 1994, we happened to be going through that Quebec one again.
V8 Juice and Canadian unity
Anglophone Canadians trembled recently when Lucien Bouchard revealed that a Quebec separation would pave the way for America to invade and annex Western Canada.
And while the Bloc Quebecois Leader later denied making such statements (by arguing “I would be crazy. Am I crazy? Am I crazy? Do I look crazy?“), his skilled rhetoric came too late to quell Anglo anxieties.
I make this observation after having seen not one, but three French-only V8 advertisements in the Wellesley/Yonge/Church streets area: an obvious bid to placate French-speaking vegetable juice drinkers.
The area chosen for this campaign is a common site for bold and experimental advertising. The wall painting of Cat Woman at Yonge and Wellesley attracted a great deal of attention, and TTC ridership increased at Church and Wellesley when the transit shelter there posted a nicely photographed ad for Toronto’s only lesbian strip club.
With such a tradition of liberality it’s no wonder that this area would be chosen for the latest “My Canada Includes More Than Your Canada” campaign.
The posters, which hang outside a couple of convenience stores, show two people, each drinking a bottle of V8. Underneath is the phrase, “V8 est a notre gout,” which I believe means, “V8 prevents gout” I am, however, unable to confirm this, as my translator isn’t talking to me until she determines whether or not Bouchard is, in fact, crazy.
Nevertheless, such a translation makes sense as a ploy to hold onto Quebec. Rich French cooking has been known to cause gout; V8 prevents gout. Subtextually, what the ads are saying is that no matter what Quebec wishes to dish up, we’ll eat it.
At the top of the ad is the word “Sante!” which probably is French for “Sanity.” What clearer message could we send to Quebec as a plea for Canadian unity? Protesters will storm Ottawa chanting: “My Canada includes Sanity!” and “V8 prevents gout!”
It’s this kind of unambiguous sloganeering that has served so well in forcing carefully planned political action in the past.
Nor should we, as do some, take lightly the threat of separation. While many commentators have pointed out various problems that could arise should Quebec choose independence, M. Bouchard has openly stated what the rest of us have hardly dared even think: that with Quebec gone there would be nothing to prevent an American invasion. Surely even the most politically naive have known that the only reason the United States has not already invaded Canada is because of their natural reluctance to get saddled with Quebec nationalists.
And so it is with many thanks that we salute V8’s selfless effort to do its part in keeping Canada together. I’d like to end with one of those rousing French slogans, but I just called my translator and she still hasn’t determined Bouchard’s mental stability.
Some mysteries may never be solved.