Editorial: Niceness paid off

The jokes and anecdotes have been making the rounds forever.'How do you get 50 Canadians out of a swimming pool?'You say: 'Please, get out of the pool.'Or, there is the research finding that revealed an astonishingly high percentage of urban Canadians,...

The jokes and anecdotes have been making the rounds forever.

‘How do you get 50 Canadians out of a swimming pool?’

You say: ‘Please, get out of the pool.’

Or, there is the research finding that revealed an astonishingly high percentage of urban Canadians, when confronting a red light at a deserted downtown intersection in the middle of the night, will wait until the light turns green before crossing the street.

Such penetrating bits of self-deprecating humor and amusing snippets go a long way towards capturing what we as Canadians know as self-evident. We are maddeningly, hopelessly nice.

In a North American business context, this national personality trait is almost always portrayed as a flaw and a competitive disadvantage. The polite Canadian is usually depicted as the somewhat shy, certainly not boastful, person who gets out-hustled by the more aggressive and promotion-minded American. As someone with experience in both the United States and Canada once said: ‘The Canadian is the one who will take `No’ for an answer.’

Well, the news is not all bad.

As Vickers & Benson Advertising has just proved, nice guys don’t always finish last.

v&b has signed a deal with China’s national state-owned television service, China Central Television, to co-produce a series of 26 educational television programs to teach English as a foreign language to the Chinese. The objective is to reach China’s business community and to accelerate the process of teaching them the dominant language of China’s future trading partners.

The programs will consist of vignettes about Canada and the way we do business here, as seen through the eyes of a group of Chinese people visiting Canada. The narrative will be structured to paint a further picture of North American business processes.

cctv will then build an English-language teaching lesson around the Canadian-made segment.

And, sponsors will be given a chance to pitch themselves to this audience of potentially 20 million to 25 million well-educated Chinese through two minutes of commercial time and a variety of promotional tie-in possibilities.

Talks between v&b and cctv began about a year and a half ago. The Chinese broadcaster, the country’s largest television network with a reach potential of 800 million viewers, also considered partnerships with American and British interests.

As negotiations proceeded, and as the various sides got to know each another better, it became increasingly clear that the Canadian sensibility would provide the best fit.

Simply put, the aggressiveness of the Americans, which serves them so well in their own market and many others, was a turn-off to the Chinese. Similarly, to the Chinese, the British style seemed altogether too aloof.

But, strike a victory for the much-maligned Canadian niceness, they like us.

Perhaps our national trait is not something we ought to be ashamed of after all. Rather, it’s something we should be bragging about.