A Pinch of Nationalism


In the gloriously self-indulgent society that we live in, commercial ad space is plastered throughout our life, constantly leading our eyes into its trap. Lately, though, some of these ads have left us with different emotions than just the usual craving or fear. A first glimpse of these posters and billboards would suggest that somebody’s just reminding us to ‘cheer on our Canadian athletes’ and be ‘proud Canadian citizens’. That is, until we realize that the actual advertisement is for Coca Cola, Samsung, or VISA. These are not even Canadian companies, however they do happen to be Official Olympic Sponsors. Clearly, these corporate advertisers have decided to play the nationalism card - because hey, blind loyalty to a brand is what nationalism is all about.

It doesn’t really matter what product they’re advertising, companies are able to connect themselves to the Olympic experience, and the Canadian experience. McDonalds has Olympic Speed Skating Champion Cindy Klassen eating an Egg McMuffin (Yeah, I’m sure that’s where she gets her energy and strength), Molson Coors shows us how many “square feet of awesomeness per person” we have (You’d think they’d know we use the metric system), and Tim Hortons does the very tired ‘Hockey is our game’ routine, with Sydney Crosby narrating and sounding like he’s going to burst into tears. Looking at Coke’s ads featuring cheering Canadians, we don’t see the product prominently featured, but rather part of the landscape or background. It’s almost as if Coke is so confident about it’s place in popular culture, they don’t have to worry about actually discussing their beverage.

While these ads aren’t the traditional and self-serving norm, they are meant to leave a warm feeling of pride in the viewer. We as Canadians can associate ourselves with the subjects in these ads because of the collective identity we invest in nationalism, and the company’s positive link with national icons in the ad.

Historically, a national icon is something or someone that becomes synonymously linked with the image of a country, like Poutine or a Beaver. However, linking a logo with the image of a country is just as effective. The federal government had done it for years.

Rather than a coat of arms or official seal like most nations, Canada has a logo. No problem there, just a unique approach to an established method. A logo is nothing more than a person or entity marking their territory. It is worrisome, though, that as Canadian generations grow more apathetic and alienated to the world around them, they will let these corporations and logos tell them what Canada is. We will be fed lines about what a great country we are and how great Coca Cola is (all in the same breath) without looking at the real issues and deciding what Canada is to them. But it is already happening. Our society does not throw history and culture into our face like it does with advertisements, which leaves our minds trying filter out some sort of reality.

Nationalism with today’s generation basically comes down to petty Internet forum fights that closely resemble the ‘my Dad is better than your Dad’ structure. Ironically, the people who participate in this squabbling are the ones who ignore politics, don’t vote, and contribute nothing culturally to our world. As old fashioned nationalistic pride becomes less relevant in modern society, corporations have picked up the pieces and introduced a new kind of image for Canada – an image that they can turn a profit from.

// Neil Vokey,

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