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Colleges Ontario Launches Obay Marketing Campaign

For Immediate Release
February 25, 2008

Provocative ‘Obay’ campaign addresses parental influence over the
post-secondary education choices of their children

‘My son started thinking for himself. OBAY put a stop to that’ - Colleges Ontario ‘Teaser’ Ad

Students across Ontario can breathe a sigh of relief today with the news that a new product, ‘Obay’, purported to stop them thinking for themselves, or about their future, isn’t for real and won’t be appearing in their parents’ medicine cabinets anytime soon.

A teaser campaign, featuring fictional ads and humorous, provocative messages about parental ‘mind control’ has been running across the province for the past few weeks. They are part of the lead up to today’s official launch of a new marketing campaign by Colleges Ontario - the advocacy organization representing the 24 colleges of applied arts and technology - that is targeted primarily to parents, the group identified as having great influence when it comes to post-secondary education.

“Our research shows that there is a lack of factual information and awareness of both the programs available at the college level, and the economic and personal benefits associated with them,” says Linda Franklin, President & CEO, Colleges Ontario. “Our goal with ‘Obay’ is to use a tongue-in-cheek approach to begin to address this awareness issue, starting with parents, the group our research showed has strong influence when it comes to decision-making around post-secondary education. The message is to step back and find out what your children really want, and then look at all the postsecondary options together.”

Based on recent research, parents favour university over college as the number one choice for their children by a margin of 3 to 1. The Obay campaign, brought to you by the makers of ‘WhyBecauseISaidSo’ and ‘NotUnderMyRoof’, is designed to remind parents that they should explore all the options – in many cases, their children may be more likely to find rewarding and fulfilling careers through college education and training.

Research has also revealed that:
• 98% of parents talk to their children about post-secondary education
• Over 90% of parents talk to other parents about how their children are doing in school
• 44% of parents believe other parents exaggerate their children’s academic accomplishments while only 17% will admit to doing that themselves
• Almost 30% of the parents polled said they would be disappointed or embarrassed if their child went to college
• 20% believe a university education is the only real route to a successful career
• Parents are more familiar with specific universities than they are with specific colleges

Further research conducted on behalf of Colleges Ontario shows an overwhelming public perception that college is a lesser alternative to university. Only 33% of high school students actually go on to university after high school yet an overwhelming majority enter high school believing they will go to university – primarily to meet their parents’ expectations.

In a 2006 survey of senior high school students’ perceptions, conducted by Drs. Alan King and Wendy Warren of Queen’s University, a majority (59%) of all students reported that their parents expected them to attend university. One-fifth of students who identified themselves as planning on college said that their parents expected them to go to university.

Beginning today, the Colleges Ontario advertising will include overlays that feature copy that delivers a clear message to parents, such as: “Your kids should be allowed to make their own decisions, especially when it comes to their post secondary education.” Another key message: “Sure you want what’s best for your kids, but when it comes to post-secondary education, pushing them to do what you want isn’t right” and encourages parents and students to “explore all the options” by visiting the website,, which showcases the exceptional range of programs offered by Ontario’s colleges when it comes to post-secondary education

How Much Influence Do Parents Really Have?
It’s conventional wisdom that today’s teenagers, given the chance, would do the opposite of what their parents want. But while they may see themselves as free-thinking, independent and sometimes unconventional, there is still one area where they are heavily influenced by their parents: post-secondary education.

”Parents play an integral role in their children’s post-secondary education planning, with expectations topping the list,” asserts Ms. Franklin. “A majority of parents expect their kids to go to university. As one might expect, parental influence is the strongest if they themselves are university graduates.”

The College Option
Students discovering their future goals may not be met at university, may find the post-secondary education option right for them at one of the 24 Ontario colleges, and it is important that they involve their parents in the exploration process, helping them understand that a college program that best meets their aspirations will most likely be a better investment in their ongoing education. The Obay campaign is designed to foster such communication between parents and their children so that parents are more receptive to looking at all the options available, and in particular, see the benefits that come when their children are pursuing a program that engages and excites them.

“This campaign is an important first step towards our goal of having colleges seen as a viable and equitable alternative to universities,” concludes Ms. Franklin. “More than one million students have enrolled in the 600 courses offered at Ontario Colleges and 89% of graduates find jobs in their field of study within six months of graduating. What’s important to recognize is that while universities and colleges will continue to offer different paths when it comes to post-secondary education, each path should be viewed on an equal footing. In doing so, we believe both will be graduating young men and women ready to meet the needs of Ontario’s evolving labour market and changing economy for decades to come.”

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Laurie Hall,, (416) 696-5554 or Heather Ward,, (416) 909-4328.
Additional information about Obay is available at