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Toronto the ________

Toronto's hapless pursuit of a good marketing slogan

Despite all the time and money invested in Toronto marketing over the years, the city hasn't hit paydirt. For many Torontonians, the recent, widely criticized "Live With Culture" ad campaign, which attempted to sell an edgy image of Toronto to U.S. alternative-weekly newspaper readers, was the last straw. Not to forget what was "the last straw" before that: the 2005 launch of the disappointingly vague "Toronto Unlimited" city brand.

It's no wonder, then, given disappointment with the official city marketing line, that the winning entry last week in the Astral Media Outdoor "My Toronto" design competition was "Toronto: Picture it your way." This city-promoting slogan and image, dreamed up by two twentysomething Ontario College of Art and Design students and voted on by more than 5,000 residents, reflects the desire of Torontonians to define their own city, rather than have it defined for them.

Why is the city was trying so hard to come up with unsuccessful new campaigns when "Toronto: You Belong Here," a slogan slapped on most taxi bumpers around town, was pretty great.

Toronto slogans buried in the city's marketing past include the late 1990's "World Within a City" and the post-SARS Tourism Toronto campaign, "It's time for a little TO," and the 1970s-era, post-sexual revolutionized "Toronto: Affectionately yours..." At one point the city's economic development department offered a clipped memorandum to the world's CEOs, "Toronto: Canada's Business Address." Still current is "Toronto: City Within A Park," Toronto Parks and Recreation department's moniker.

Then there's Tourism Toronto's 1980s through to early 1990s admonition to "Discover the Feeling!" delivered "with feeling". Or the Toronto Industrial Board's humorously understated late-60s brochure "Toronto: The Exciting City" as well as their later, peer-pressure-oriented button campaign "I prefer Toronto." One of Tourism Toronto's first campaigns, launched soon after its formation in 1926, with the straightforward, but perhaps disputable, "Toronto: Canada's most beautiful city."

Toronto, it seems, is continually in a state of comparison, either saying "Hey! We're like New York, Paris, and London!" or "Hey! We're nothing like New York, Paris, and London!" or, God forbid, sometimes both at the same time (the latter being part of what hobbled the Live With Culture attempt). Simultaneously, there's an underlying murmur of "Um, but at least we're way better than Calgary and Vancouver."

May 20, 2007 in Toronto Neighbourhoods | Permalink


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I've only had the pleasure of visiting Toronto twice but thoroughly enjoyed my times there. One thing I remember that made me chuckle back then - It seemed that many businesses advertised that they were the "world's largest". So I visited many of the "world's largest" businesses there including the "world's largest book store". Maybe the slogan could be "Toronto - We do it larger."

Posted by: Linda Davis | May 28, 2007 9:50:54 AM

Nice write-up, very informative. We just got our new site through http://www.real-estate-designers.com and now we
have to choose between organic SEO and PPC. I have been recommended by a lot
of people to do both at the same time to get the best results. Any suggestions
on this arena will be helpful.

Posted by: Melissa | May 20, 2007 9:01:06 PM

We have a similar problem in Connecticut. I remember a few years back the governor did these radio ads extoling...

"Connecticut. So close to Boston and New York."

Huh?!? Neither one of those places are in Connecticut, isn't that an ad for Boston and New York and not for Connecticut?

Posted by: Athol Kay | May 20, 2007 8:36:32 PM

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