Toronto advertising

This is how Toronto advertised itself to the world in the 1990s and 2000s

The way Toronto advertised itself to the world over the past few decades hasn't always drawn a lot of praise.

Tourism videos from the 1970s and 1980s can perhaps best be described as retro or quirky, and some might have even worked like the Canada - Your World Next Door campaign.

Launched in the late 80s, this advertising campaign continued in the early 1990s and played heavily in the States nearest to the Canadian border, though it got some play in Europe as well.

Closer to home, the provincial tourism board transitioned from its highly successful "Yours to Discover" campaign and was trying out "Ontario the Incredible," which didn't have the same resonance.

Still, it was noteworthy for its occasional urban focus, which leaned heavily on Toronto's entertainment options. No longer did those pushing the charms of the province think they needed to stick solely to boosting the wonders of the rural landscape.

If "Ontario the Incredible" was mostly forgettable, it still wasn't as bad as what was cooked up in the 200os. Facing a full blown crisis following the SARS outbreak, Toronto tourism responded with its "You Belong Here" campaign.

To the ad's credit, the annoying tune is easy to recall and the city shots establish a certain excitement. Where it falters is the use of celebrities to push the city. Doug Gilmour, the Barenaked Ladies and Jason Priestley just didn't have the star power for this thing to take off.

In any case, nothing could have been worse than what followed. Toronto Unlimited was meant to be a major branding exercise for the city, not just a series of ads, but it all went horribly wrong.

There's still plenty of criticism and discussion of this re-branding idea available online, but it's easy to get a sense for how ill-conceived the campaign was just by looking at one of its video spots.

Um, you'd think there might be even one image of Toronto in there? Nope. It's just someone throwing out a host of slogans with little enthusiasm or desire to show the viewer what the fuss should be about.

Lead photo by

Picture Narrative


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