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2007 01 28
Promoting Toronto To U.S. Audiences: The Challenge.
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"Tonight I'm not Susan, call me Antoinette."

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"Do you think I need a breast reduction?"

Toronto's press has come together to resoundingly pan the latest "T.O. Live with Culture" campaign that tries to promote the city to our southern neighbours (CTV, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star).

Here are some quotes:

Toronto's Live with Culture promotion program is where the off-beat campaign started. With a little money left over in the budget, program manager Gregory Nixon decided to find a new approach to attracting American tourists.

"We're trying to do something a little different, we're trying to play around, we're trying to be playful," Nixon said. . .

Nixon hopes they will break perceptions that Toronto is a bland, uninteresting city.

"We're about art. We're about making culture and cultural ideas and trying to get other people around the world interested in them," Nixon said.

"So if we've managed to provoke some kind of a debate about how Toronto wants to represent itself to the rest of the world, well then I saw we've achieved our goals."

Research consistently shows that Toronto's image is fusty, he said. "People thought Toronto was clean and safe but not particularly sexy. It didn't have much of an edge about it. It was kind of a lukewarm response. And that's not really going to get people driving across the border.

"So we thought, why don't we play with it, to promote a discussion and plant the idea in people's heads that Toronto might be slightly more interesting than the way it's been promoting itself in the past."

He approached Foote, Cone & Belding Canada to come up with some ideas, and liked what they delivered.

Now he'd like to hear from a broader audience.

"We want to get a debate going around this thing: Does it work or doesn't it?"

Gregory Nixon, project manager for TO Live with Culture, defended the campaign as "a direct response to a long history of marketing Toronto in very unimaginative ways." While he conceded the ads do not truly reflect Toronto, Mr. Nixon said that wasn't really the point.

"We're not just clean and safe and dull," he said. "We've got a bit of sexiness."

I don't understand the ads on a number of levels. Rather than holding the city up as a hip, exciting place to visit, they seem more a parody of Toronto. "That's what Torontonians think is edgy?" we can hear people asking, "what a lame place." Check out the cat in the first ad. I swear that it looks embarrassed if not horrified.

The ads certainly don't represent the Toronto I know and love -- the one that offers virtually limitless variations of themes and interests and is more than enough for any visitor.

We've just finished our TTC website challenge to Adam Giambrone. Maybe it's time to have an "Advertising Toronto Challenge." Are you ready?
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 01/28 at 03:36 PM

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