Did Olympics commercials wear you out?

Two goofy beavers become Bell pitchmen. An elderly man totes a Tim Hortons coffee mug to watch his grandson play hockey. A grocery store shopper implores other customers, in a cartoon-like voice, to pick up some Yoplait yogurt. The TV ads have been running, and running, and running, during CBC’s wall-to-wall Turin Olympics coverage, prompting media columnists and some viewers to vent their displeasure, reported The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) Feb. 24. Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York, says the fact that major, well heeled sponsors like Bell and McDonald’s have come up with only a few ads, which are endlessly repeated, is inexcusable. “There is what is called in the business a wear-out factor – that over any period of time a commercial is over-exposed,” says Middleton. “One of three things happens. We shut it out of our consciousness. The second thing that happens is it does piss us off . . . so there is a ‘p.o.’ factor. The third one is that even if people see it a lot, they like watching it. That is a minority response but it does happen.”

Canada’s multiculturalism: a nifty way to make money ‘back home’?

The Globe and Mail reported Feb. 24 on what it called a reverse diaspora of immigrant Canadians fanning out across the globe from increasingly multicultural head offices. Canada’s ability to tap diversity outstrips that of most other countries largely because many immigrants to Canada arrived recently enough to still have fresh business contacts and experience in their countries of origin, said Alan Middleton, director of the Executive Education Centre at York University’s Schulich School of Business. Immigrants currently represent about 70 per cent of the growth in the labour force; within a few years, they are expected to account for all of it. Even so, Middleton believes corporate Canada hasn’t truly leveraged its multifarious workforce. “We’ve learned to hire multiculturally, but we haven’t learned to apply it,” he said. “Some companies, particularly Sun Life and Manulife, have used their successes with ethnic communities to build markets in China and India. But lots haven’t.”

Schulich’s Executive Education Centre boasts a roster of 14,000 international businesspeople enrolled in programs in Canada, China, India and Korea. The school’s own attention to diversity has proven crucial to its growth amid cutthroat competition for international students. “It helps us compete with the best schools in the US, the UK and France, where not as many instructors are used to dealing with multicultural classrooms,” said Middleton. “We look for professors who understand local cultures, for instance, people who understand Mandarin Chinese. If you send in a Brit or an American, they’re at a competitive disadvantage.”

Monahan lauds PM’s choice for Supreme Court

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s choice to fill a vacancy on the country’s highest court received high praise from the Canadian legal community reported The Edmonton Sun Feb. 24. Manitoba’s Marshall Rothstein, who has sat on the Federal Court for 14 years, will appear before an all-party committee of MPs for an unprecedented review of his credentials for the job. “I think this [choice] will be universally applauded, certainly by the legal community, and I think it’s a very strong appointment,” said Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Monahan played down concerns the new public review process will create a more politicized high court, saying that unlike the US system, appointments in Canada are seldom made to balance or shift the court in a particular direction. “First of all, our court is unanimous in 70 per cent of its cases,” Monahan noted. “That’s a fact that’s not often known, whereas the United States Supreme Court is unanimous only in about 40 to 45 per cent of cases. So our court is a much more collegial court. You don’t have these five-to-four splits that often.” Monahan was also interviewed on CBC Newsworld Feb. 23. on the process of appointing Supreme Court judges.

Students cautioned about accepting Web ‘internships’

The use of student interns by companies such as Sony to promote products on social networking sites may have its attractions, reported the National Post Feb. 24, but the practice is not without its pitfalls. To gain access to this online world, corporate big wigs need employees who understand the technical terrain and can help them tap the sites of their target market. But Markus Giesler, professor at the Schulich School of Business at York, who studies the anthropology of marketing, says he is wary of the job prospect. “My advice to a student would be not to accept such a job position,” he said. Hiring unpaid interns, who are also consumers, is an innovative grassroots marketing strategy, but one that may not work. Young people are well aware of the potential to be duped. “Authenticity is pretty hard to determine on line, it requires a lot of work but it’s not surprising that companies are trying to achieve that,” he said.