Toronto’s street is full of huge pink flamingos and unicorns

In the age of the selfie, inflatables are an advertiser’s best friend.

Especially in the summer months, when marketing strategists go out to test the public’s appetite for publicity stunts, helium balloons and garish props often serve as the backdrop to nearly every pop-up and branding exercise in town.

This weekend, Canadian Tire has lined the front yards of houses in the Danforth neighborhood with huge pink flamingos and unicorns, garden gnomes and dairy cows, as part of an advertising campaign to celebrate the company’s centenary.

The festivities have attracted families looking for fun and the Instagram leanings looking for a photo op.

It’s a bold approach to marketing—turning a random Toronto residential street into a mile-long ad for a $10 billion company—but one that reflects an experimental moment in the advertising world.

“Over the past two years, most of the interactions businesses have had with people have been virtual, so they now want to go out and advertise in the community,” said David Soberman, a professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School. of Management.

North American companies spent more than $1.8 billion on outdoor advertising (known in the marketing world as out-of-home or “OOH” advertising) in the first few months of 2022, a huge spike compared to the early months of 2022. 2021, according to data from the Out of Home Advertising Association of America.

But after years of declining sales and foot traffic, some retailers are also trying to sell consumers on their community tires while keeping costs down.

Nearly 50 homeowners on Bastedo Avenue, a quiet street lined with terraced homes and tall oak trees, agreed to put floaties on their lawns for Canadian Tire’s anniversary. Since the marketing is on private property and does not hinder traffic, the company did not need a street permit to continue the campaign, a company spokesperson said.

“Campaigns like these are a pretty innovative way to advertise and draw attention to your brand without having to spend a lot of money,” Soberman says.

The company didn’t say why it chose Danforth, but Canadian Tire has long appealed to middle-class homeowners who need gardening tools and kids’ sports equipment. For a company fairly embedded in the national psyche, displays of community spirit are key to sustaining the brand, especially as it faces increasingly stiff competition from comparable retailers, including Walmart and Amazon. The company’s advantage in Canada, experts say, is its brand awareness and notoriety.

The retailer’s campaign also raises an interesting question for residents: can your street sporadically turn into a marketing campaign?

In short, the answer is yes – but only if the neighbors agree.

While businesses require permits to place signage on sidewalks or host events in public areas, advertising on homes is allowed as long as the owner has given permission, a spokesperson for the City of Toronto said.

Disgruntled community members should probably call 311 to file complaints with the city.

The city has statutes governing the size and scope of business advertising. But, as is often the case, the city lacks enforcement resources, so any action taken is driven by community-registered complaints.

“There are statutes about how big advertising can be, but the advantage of such displays is that they are very temporary and probably take a few hours to set up and take down again. And apparently the community is working on it, so the risk isn’t great,” Soberman said.

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