Ad agency wages 'battle for Toronto's soul'

November 15, 2013

'It's a battle for Toronto's soul.'

Hannah Smit, art director at ad agency John St., describing why she and fellow art director Marie Richer created an online campaign this week called "More Than Ford," which aims to spread a different message about the city than the one currently making headlines.

In response to the international attention drawn to the scandal at Toronto City Hall, the campaign was cobbled together on their own time, with the help of friends and others at the agency. Over two days, they put together a video celebrating Toronto, a website and a Twitter campaign asking people to use the social network to talk about why they love Toronto using the hashtag #MoreThanFord.

The website asks people to tweet things they love about Toronto. It also tracks which hashtag is winning, in terms of the amount of conversation on Twitter: #RobFord or #MoreThanFord. It's an imperfect measure of course, since many of the people talking about Ford are not on Twitter, or even on Twitter are using different hashtags such as #TOpoli or no hashtags at all. But it's not meant to be scientific: the message of the campaign is about starting a new conversation, Ms. Smit said.


Canadians are growing more comfortable with discussing brands on social media, according to a new study from Colloquy, a research arm of LoyaltyOne Inc., which operates loyalty programs including Air Miles. However, while the study found that word-of-mouth recommendations are growing online, the subsegment of the population that are most loyal and engaged, and most likely to recommend brands, is falling.



Portion of Canadians who use social media, such as Facebook, to recommend brands to friends and acquaintances (up from 28 per cent in 2010).


Portion of Canadians who believe social networks are an appropriate way for brands to speak to consumers.


Portion of Canadians between 18 and 25 who believe this is an appropriate way for brands to interact with them.

Source: Colloquy survey conducted in June with 2,858 participants


In a recent comedy sketch on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the comedian and guest Justin Timberlake mocked the use of hashtags on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. (These are words or phrases with a number sign attached to make the posts in which they are included searchable by that subject. It's also used for emphasis.) The men illustrated how ridiculous this online tic is by demonstrating what the use of hashtags in spoken conversation would sound like.

But a new ad campaign is putting spoken hashtags to serious use: the ads by DentsuBos for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto feature people speaking about how mental illness affects their lives.

"I'm one of over 1.5 million people in Canada with hashtag major depression," says a man in one ad. Each ad then lists possible negative consequences of illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and alcoholism, also using this device. A follow-up ad in each case lists hashtags of positive impacts for people who get help. Ads are also appearing online, in newspapers, and in bus shelters and other parts of Toronto's public transit system. The campaign, which launched on Monday, also points people to a website ( where they are invited to share these messages with their friends on social media. It is designed to increase awareness and education around mental illness.

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