Are you a virgin?

We live in a place where Sex and the City airs at 7 p.m. on regular television. In a country where the legalization of same-sex marriage is on the table, marijuana isn't too far behind, and where such changes have been proposed by mainstream politicians. All of which makes us stand apart from our neighbours to the south.

We live in a place where Sex and the City airs at 7 p.m. on regular television. In a country where the legalization of same-sex marriage is on the table, marijuana isn’t too far behind, and where such changes have been proposed by mainstream politicians. All of which makes us stand apart from our neighbours to the south.

If you’ve read Fire and Ice by Michael Adams, president of Toronto-based Environics, none of this is a surprise. His book talks of the widening schism between Canadian and American values. According to Adams, we happen to be shying away from religious, patriarchal and traditional political authority.

In fact, we’re starting to resemble Europeans a hell of a lot more than Americans, who in contrast, are more likely to toe the party line of their commander-in-chief, and attend church regularly. (Adams made these conclusions after more than 14,400 interviews with Canadians and Americans aged 15+.)

Yet the majority of Canadian marketing has not moved forward with the rest of society. In fact, advertising in this country is nowhere near as edgy as it is in Europe, and many would say it even trails the work being done in the States. Makes no sense.

When you talk to creatives, they’ll often bemoan the apprehension that plagues Canadian marketers. It came up often in the roundtable discussion on guerrilla marketing (page 9). One participant suggested it

was because guerrilla can’t be tested like TV.

That, in itself, is a problem, because when it comes to TV, there are few truly outstanding spots. When you look at companies with the most marketing muscle in this great land – especially Procter & Gamble and The Big Three automakers – it becomes evident why advertising has such a bad rep among consumers. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a groundbreaking TV ad for Mr. Clean or Pontiac?

Perhaps it will take a U.K.-based brand to lead the way. When Virgin Mobile swung into the Canadian marketplace earlier this month, Sir Richard Branson acted, well, a little crazy. Decked out in a superhero costume, first he slid down a cable from the roof of a high rise and landed in Toronto’s Dundas Square. Then he climbed into a monster truck, and crushed the competition, represented by three Starsky & Hutch- era cars.

Which got me thinking: here’s a man who isn’t the least bit afraid to make a fool of himself. What Canadian marketer would ever risk that? (Could you imagine Ted Rogers in red tights and a cape?) Yet it pays off for Branson: Virgin Atlantic is now worth $10 billion.

Here’s hoping that the arrival of his brand in Canada will lead others into virgin territory.

Lisa D’Innocenzo, Editor