toronto tourism 1970s

How Toronto was marketed to the world in the 1970s

While the 1980s might have been the heyday of Toronto tourism advertising, there's something wildly compelling about the version of the city that was sold in the decade prior. Here was a city in the midst of massive transformation just getting its bearings on what it might become.

Two clips in particular serve as touchstones for the manner in which Toronto was coming into its own as a city that deserved mention on the international stage, one of which came from abroad and one of which was a homegrown product.

At the outset of the decade, Eastern Airlines produced a promotional reel for its service to Toronto that's rich with references to the booming metropolis the city had recently become. It's pre-CN Tower, but full of scenes featuring City Hall, the TD Centre, and the still new-feeling Bloor-Danforth subway.

The whole two minute clip is dazzling for the way that it boldly proclaims Toronto's place on the world's stage, from shots that look like old buildings being torn down for new ones to an at times haunting soundtrack that changes pace in manner reminiscent of the Chinatown trailer.

Fast forward to 1979, and you have one of the all time great tributes to Toronto in the form of "People City." Commissioned by Moses Znaimer to run at the beginning at end of each day of programming for his brand new station Citytv, it was a watershed moment for local television but also the image of Toronto.

Co-written by Gary Gray and Tommy Ambrose, it was a proto city anthem that placed Toronto's ultimate worth in its mix of people. Sure, the lyrics are dreadfully sentimental, but they seem to look forward rather than back.

"Find yourself in people city
Stay awhile if you can
With folks who will be tomorrow's faces
Kickin' the traces
Showing you places
In Toronto
That's people city"

"People City" wasn't a tourism clip in the strictest sense of the term, and yet it hit on something that every person marketing Toronto in the years to come would lean on entirely. It's also now the subject of a wonderful short documentary from Retrontario that traces its origins and reveals how close it came to becoming the city's official anthem.

For all the focus on architecture and landmarks required of a promotional film, the greatest selling point that this city had to offer was its livability, lack of pretence, and, back then, its budding diversity.

Lead photo by

Chuckman's Nostalgia


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