What is the purpose of advertising? The answer is quite simple in fact. “It is a form of marketing communication used to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take or continue to take some action.” (Wikipedia, Advertising). Spending on advertising was estimated in 2010 to be $467 billion worldwide, and internationally there are four giant conglomerates: Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis and WPP.
Even in a bad economy advertising does not slow, in fact some in businesses believe that promoting or communicating their product or service is of a far greater necessity when money is tight. In Latin, ad vertere means “to turn around”; in any enterprise it is a tool to grab a share of an available market and audience.
Advertising messages are usually paid for by sponsors carried via various old media such as newspapers, magazines, television and radio advertisement, outdoor advertising or direct mail. In our ever changing and developing world we have new and somewhat exciting media opening up such as blogs, websites or text messages, Facebook and Twitter. As media forms are constantly expanding and changing, so are its clients. It is no longer only a need for businesses who provide a product to a market but today those clients span the full realm of society.
Regardless of who is the client or the type of media used, one basic commonality and link to the very early days of this massive industry's growth remains unchanged. Walter D. Scott, a psychologist of the early 20th century, said “Man has been called the reasoning animal but he could with greater truthfulness be called the creature of suggestion. He is reasonable, but he is to a greater extent suggestible.” Psychology is still the major influencing factor in a good advertising campaign.
Partnered equally with psychology is taste. As tastes change so do advertising campaigns. Another giant of the advertising business, one who has been called “the father of modern advertising,” was Thomas J. Barratt from London. Barratt was working for the Pears Soap company and in 1907 had stated, “tastes change, fashions change, and the advertiser has to change with them. An idea that was effective a generation ago would fall flat, stale and unprofitable if presented to the public today. Not that the idea of today is always better than the older idea, but it is different – it hits the present taste.” (Wikipedia, Advertising).
Whether it is the ever changing tastes of a marketplace or understanding the basics of psychology the purpose of advertising has always been a simple one. Whoever the client is, big or small, providing a product or a service, and whatever media is chosen, newspaper, outdoor advertising or internet, the purpose is to deliver the proper message that the service or product is the best. In a world where competition can be fierce depending on the chosen field of endeavour, advertising is a tool which can provide growth and profit.
In Canada advertising as an industry is self-regulated through the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards which is administered by Advertising Standards Canada (ASC). This Code of Advertising Standards is broken into 14 specific clauses beginning with number one 'Accuracy and Clarity,' through to number fourteen 'Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals'. The bottom line is simple, if any advertising does not comply with the Code's fourteen clauses it will be removed from public access or view.
Canada also has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms which are outlined under its first clause, “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in its subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Clause 2 states, “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms,” particularly of relevance is 2(b) “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”
At this point a serious and frightening question arises. If the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards is to be accepted as the “prescribed” law in advertising and that “prescribed” law has not been breached, and if the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the fundamental freedom of the press and other media communication under its clause 2(b). What then motivates a provider of advertising space to breach signed contracts and refuse to publicly display an advertisement other than illegal censorship and breach of contract law?
Contracts are legally binding agreements between two parties. There are terms which both parties equally agree upon relating to costs, timelines specific to the provision of services or goods, and termination conditions relevant to the individual contract signed. Once a contract is signed and monies paid each party are equally bound by the conditions set out in the contract. Breach of any of the conditions agreed upon will, in most cases, result in costly legal action.
As a website providing news and information Mayorgate has grown to being read in over 30 countries outside the US and Canada, and a readership numbering well over half a million. Locally it was time to invest in advertising to promote the name and what Mayorgate attempts to achieve. Outdoor advertising was chosen as the most appropriate form of promoting the name and at the time most cost effective.
OMG Niagara of Cushman Road in St. Catharines was contacted. This company sells space on large waste and recycling bins that are located throughout the city on well travelled streets, at busy intersections, shopping malls and downtown. It is a relatively new avenue for advertising and one that provides great potential. After several phone calls with a representative of OMG Niagara, Scott Davidson, two contracts were signed. The first was dated August 19th 2014 and the second August 21st 2014. All monies requested were paid and a request made by Scott Davidson for artwork to be sent in PDF form to firstname.lastname@example.org complied with.
After the first artwork was sent in, a phone call was received from Scott Davidson requesting some changes. The artwork was revised and sent in again to the attention of Gary Dingwall at OMG Niagara. What was designed was straightforward, simple and aimed at the promotion of the website and its name.
|Artwork submitted to Gary Dingwall.|
Several days after the revised artwork was sent in a phone message was received from Gary Dingwall of OMG. As one listens to the voice and the words both shock and revulsion are immediate responses. Immediately a previous incident comes to mind involving a potential mayoral candidate in the most recent municipal elections, Adam Arsenault. Arsenault had been threatened by former Mayor Brian McMullan to remove his tweet linking to the Mayorgate website. Mr. Dingwall of OMG makes it rather clear he has fear of reprisals by the City against his company. Can anything like that be possible today in Canada? Can anything like this be permitted today in Canada?
OMG Niagara has been doing business in the Niagara Region for over a decade. Documents have been obtained from the Community Services Committee of the City of Niagara Falls dated February 3rd 2003, recommending a transfer of an agreement from Olifas Marketing Group Inc. to OMG Niagara. Originally an agreement had been approved by the City of Niagara Falls for Olifas Marketing Group Inc. to install Info Boxes and Info Bars on City road allowances. This agreement was approved in May 1998, and in May of 2002 and the City was approached by Mr. Gary Dingwall “indicating that the franchise for the installation of Info Bars and Info Boxes was transferred to Mr. Dingwall, operating as OMG Niagara by Olifas Marketing Group Inc.”
Olifas Marketing Group Inc. was founded by Salvatore Oliveti with Loredana Oliveti and Giancarlo Serpe named as officers of the company. OMG found itself in front of public attention when Montreal crime figure Vito Rizzuto had been arrested for impaired driving whilst driving a vehicle owned by OMG.
Vito Rizzuto had to have been one of the most well know Mob bosses in Canada. Unlike many others who hide behind a facade of legitimate business and the safety of political connections, Rizzuto was the epitome of a movie mobster. He served jail time in Colorado for his role in the death of three Bonanno crime family captains. Rizzuto died in 2013 in a Montreal hospital after apparent health complications; no autopsy was conducted.
Meanwhile back at OMG, Salvatore Oliveti, who was one of seven Ontario men named by Italian authorities in Mafia connections, claimed that he had no idea of Rizzuto's connection to his OMG. According to one of his lawyers, Symon Zucker, “No one knew (Rizzuto) had an interest in it.” (Client not mobster, lawyer says, Rob Lamberti, Toronto Sun, December 18, 2010). Yet further investigation shows that Vito Rizzuto's wife and children made $1.6 million from the sale of 8,750 shares in Olifas Marketing Group Inc. (OMG).
OMG in the end was sold to a Mexican outdoor advertising company Eumex. A Toronto City staff report dated December 12th 2003 advises the Works Committee and Council of the change in control and name change for Olifas Marketing Group Inc. The report states that OMG had been renamed Urban Equipment of Canada Inc. (EUCAN). Documents obtained from the City of Niagara Falls confirm that Olifas Marketing Group Inc. transferred the local franchise to Gary Dingwall operating as OMG Niagara.
It doesn't matter what happened to Salvatore Oliveti or his Olifas Marketing Group Inc.; its sale and renaming is simply a paper trail. Here in Niagara it is OMG Niagara, and it is still operating under that name. All business is administered by contract and therefore governed by contract legislation. Advertising that is placed by OMG Niagara must pass the basic guidelines of The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. So now the question that demands an answer is why would OMG Niagara intentionally breach contracts that it had entered into?
As already stated two contracts were signed in August with OMG Niagara to have outdoor advertising space provided. The artwork complied in full with the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. In response this voice message was left by Gary Dingwall of OMG Niagara. A full transcript of the short message is below.
“Hi Alex, how are you. It's Gary from OMG. Boy you put me in a heck of a spot (laughs)! I thought it over and thought it over and I like the idea of somebody you know having um personal thoughts and that, but it was kind of misleading when we first talked that it was just a website. Um, what, what you're basically asking me to do is bite the hand that feeds me and um I can't if you have a personal thing against um ah the mayor or um any of the councilors, um we just can't, we can't advertise that, they're the ones that, they give us our permits and allow us to operate and put food on my table and I think you can understand that, um, if you want to Creative Outdoor Advertising might um advertise you, um, they're the bench people, don't have their number offhand but um I'll ask Scott to refund your money to you and um all the best to you. I'm, like I say I like somebody that's a debate and that thinks out of the box but I gotta look after um my business and um what, what I can do and can't do. Hope you understand, talk to you later, bye.”
Following receipt of the voice message left by Gary Dingwall two emails were sent to OMG Niagara. The first email dated September 14th 2014 requested a written termination by OMG Niagara. It was ignored by Gary Dingwall. The second email demanded a written termination notice by OMG Niagara. It was ignored by Gary Dingwall. According to the 'Terms and Conditions Covering This Advertising Contract' it states, “Unless otherwise stated herein, all notices provided here under shall be in writing and shall be given either by prepaid registered mail, or by personal delivery of same, address to OMG media or the client at the address contained on the face of the contract.” It also states that “All notices of cancellation must be received by OMG media in writing.” Finally on the back of the contract it states “The terms of this agreement shall be governed by the laws of the Province of Ontario.” OMG Niagara intentionally breached binding contracts and refused to provide the cancellation in writing.
In addition to breach of contract, Gary Dingwall lied in his voice message. Gary said in his own voice “when we first talked that it was just a website.” Dingwall lied! At no time, not over the phone nor in person had I spoken with Gary Dingwall about anything. My only contact was with Scott Davidson who represented OMG and signed the contracts. This is the same Scott that is referred to in the voice message by Gary Dingwall. Gary Dingwall lied!
Not only did Gary Dingwall lie, he accused me of lying to him when he said “but it was kind of misleading...” Dingwall lied, he decided to breach contracts, he also decided to breach the Charter of Rights, and in his cowardice he accused another individual of deceit. What has Gary Dingwall got to fear so much? He goes on to say, “...we cannot advertise that, they're the ones that, they give us our permits and allow us to operate and put food on my table...”. Does Dingwall fear the mayor and councillors? Does Dingwall fear reprisals of some sort from City government in some fashion? Can any mayor or councillor threaten a business for any reason whatsoever?
Dingwall's message concludes with, “I'm, like I say I like somebody that's a debate and that thinks out of the box but I gotta look after, um, my business and um what, what I can do and can't do.” What has Gary Dingwall got to fear? OMG Niagara was a franchise which began life from a business run by Salvatore Oliveti. Oliveti's connections were not exactly ones that fear too much especially in their line of business. OMG Niagara still operates under a name that suffered heavy financial losses due to bad publicity and an apparent connection to Vito Rizzuto. Most business logic would necessitate disassociation with such a business.
OMG Niagara has had other problems to deal with. It appears that a hot dog cart is or was operated by OMG Niagara. This hot dog cart ran head-on into a collision with regional health inspectors. This is the same OMG Niagara on the breached advertising contracts as on the Health Inspection Report issued by Region of Niagara health inspectors, with the same address, 41-286 Cushman Road, St. Catharines. According to Niagara Region records a verbal closure order was issued on May 22nd 2014, then a ticket issued July 29th 2014, another closure order issued on May 22nd 2014, and a conviction July 29th 2014. All of this in breach of health code regulations for safe handling of food. It appears that OMG Niagara not only is willing to breach Ontario contract law but has little regard for health regulations in relation to its hot dogs.
Still, failing numerous regional health inspections does not explain what its president Gary Dingwall had to fear. The stench of fear is clear and evident in Dingwall's voice on the message and most definitely in his words. Yet the question remains, what did Gary Dingwall fear? St. Catharines' exiting Mayor Brian McMullan had threatened a potential mayoral candidate illegally in the lead up to the Municipal Elections of 2014, simply for a tweet that linked to Mayorgate. Did OMG and Gary Dingwall fear worse actions, so he decided to censor Mayorgate?
The law is simple, contracts were signed and monies paid with full compliance to the accepted rules of the Advertising Council. Breach of contract and the cowardly refusal to supply a written termination only further add to the illegality of the situation. For that reason legal action has been prepared against OMG Niagara and Gary Dingwall, damages will be claimed and an explanation demanded. It will be interesting to put Gary Dingwall under oath in court of law with this question; who threatened you and how?
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