How to Sell Toronto

CBC Radio 1’s drive home show, Here & Now, held a competition a (long) while ago to design a marketing campaign for Toronto Tourism. I have long felt that (i) Toronto is amazing and (ii) our tourism campaigns suck. So I put together an idea and it happened to win, for all that it means to ‘win’ a CBC radio contest. I found it while combing through old files and thought I’d dust it off.

New York Lite

Toronto can’t claim the natural majesty of Vancouver or the ‘little Europe’ pretension of Montreal. Instead, we try for ‘big city adventure’ with generic campaigns that showcase food, sport, and cultural attractions. All of which underline a collective anxiety that we’re a pale imitation of New York, London, and other cities with deeper lore and more significance.

Actual shots of Toronto.

But ‘We are the World’ is Boring

Toronto has something not found anywhere else: extreme diversity. Our best feature is our (somewhat dubious, but so what!) status as the most multicultural city on the planet. But ads based on multiculturalism quickly feel like PSAs for multiculturalism. A good campaign needs a cheeky edge.

A Brazen Bait-and-Switch

Toronto’s a mix of other places, so the campaign sells Toronto by selling those other places. We steal the iconic imagery of other cities – Carnival in Rio, markets in Shanghai, night clubs in Tokyo, temples in Delhi – and execute a bait-and-switch with shots of Toronto. The idea is to brand our city as the world in one place, while countering the kumbaya of it all with shameless appropriation.

(The photos were all taken by other people, whose work I stole from Flickr. If it’s your image, please let me know.)

Update: CBC ran a story saying that the new tourism ad for the US makes the country look like Canada. Largely because it’s promoting diversity and natural beauty. The usual US landmarks are hinted in the background. Thought it might just be a CBC perspective, but the comments thread on YouTube backs it up (assuming the commentators aren’t all Canadian, themselves).

1 comment

  1. “How to Sell Toronto |” was indeed a quite excellent blog
    post, . Keep publishing and I am going to continue
    following! Thanks for the post ,Branden

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