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Canadian Tire says its Union Station tree is illuminated by the spirit of Christmas. But it's not quite as simple as that.

Canadian Tire/Canadian Tire

1. Do you remember the crank call people used to make to smoke shops? "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" they'd say. Pause. "Then let him out!" (Yeah, that was before our time, too, but it seemed funny on Happy Days.) We thought of that when we heard about a Telus holiday promotion, created by the agency Taxi, that asks people to watch a live Facebook feed of a phone sitting in a Telus store. Four times a day, a phone number is revealed; the first person to call and have someone answer wins a new Samsung phone and a Galaxy tablet. Dubbed Merry Under the Mistletoe, the promotion, ending Friday, is supposed to demonstrate the power of serendipitous connection. (All it demonstrated for us was the disappointment of yet another person not answering our calls.)

2. Still, it would seem 'tis the season for interactivity. Canadian Tire has installed a Christmas tree in the corner of Toronto's Union Station that it says is illuminated by "the spirit of Christmas." The idea, developed by the agency DDB, is that when someone says something about Christmas on a social network, a blog, or other public media, one of the tree's lights is lit up. But don't think it's instantaneous: If you look up the tweets displayed on a TV screen at the base of the tree, you'll notice they've been carefully curated and delayed by hours. To which we might be inclined to say: Bah, humbug! But then we figured they're probably just being careful in case Justin Trudeau decides to live-tweet a special, um, seasonal wish from Parliament.

3. Executives of Lowe's hardware stores in the U.S. certainly heard more than their fair share of gutter talk this week after they pulled their ads from All-American Muslim, a reality show on TLC about five families in the Dearborn, Mich., area and their struggles with mainstream society. After Lowe's said it would drop its sponsorship in response to a letter-writing campaign by the Florida Family Association, the retailer was both pilloried and hailed. Then, its problems magnified as xenophobic comments piled up on its Facebook page and it didn't delete them. Meanwhile, other advertisers stepped forward and offered to buy whatever inventory Lowe's dropped. Last we checked, that made the score: Capitalism, 1; Censorship, 0.

Story continues below advertisement

4. We know one organization that might like to buy ads if they become available: al-Qaeda. Now, it's true, we're not exactly the, um, target market ( heathen rimshot!), but it seems pretty clear to us that when Osama bin Laden was killed last May, all hopes for his terrorist organization undergoing a brand refresh were also shot through the heart. Or so we thought! Now comes word that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is asking followers to use the name Ansar al-Sharia because it doesn't have the "negative baggage" of the original. We'd love to know which cautionary case studies they're using as guides. New Coke? They probably heard it sparked a bloodbath in the C-suite and got all excited.



Simon Houpt

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