The city of Paris has recently been courting tourists from London, England with a new series of ads that look like this:
What does a Paris tourism poster have to do with Toronto? Well, the C’est So Paris ads, with their posy compositions, saturated colours and irreverent humour, bears an uncanny resemblance to those T.O. Live With Culture posters from January, only these are actually good. The Parisian ads are witty, attention-grabbing and intelligible—everything the T.O. Live With Culture ads tried to be, but weren’t.
The above image is a promo for the Rugby World Cup in Paris in September, and another poster shows legged new-age furniture walking down a runway in anticipation of a design exhibition in the fall. According to the C’est So Paris website, the ads purposely “make fun of the city’s stereotypes…to give a new image to Paris.”
Apparently, T.O. Live With Culture similarly tried to lampoon “perceptions that Toronto is a bland, uninteresting city.” However, instead of trying to capture what is unique (and thus marketable) about Toronto, the admeisters behind the T.O. Live With Culture campaign, in typical Canadian fashion, described Toronto in terms of what it isn’t.
The Paris ads are a good example of flaunting what you’ve got; not what you don’t. Yet what makes them truly successful is their clarity: they’re directed specifically at Londoners and their interests (by contrast, who the heck do the T.O. Live With Culture ads speak to?), and each poster advertises a specific event in Paris’ cultural calendar. The point being made is that the city is a dynamic place with many such happenings year-round.
The T.O. Live With Culture campaign lacks such focus. Pointing out that Toronto has museums, movies and opera is not enough; what big city doesn’t have those things? The poster comparing Toronto to Hollywood should be highlighting the Toronto International Film Festival; however, to a non-Torontonian the only message being conveyed is that you can watch a lot of blockbusters here.
Toronto’s been fubbing up these tourism ads for decades now. Gregory Nixon, the program manager for T.O. Live With Culture, said that he wanted to “provoke some kind of a debate about how Toronto wants to represent itself to the rest of the world.” So how do we want to represent ourselves?