Ontario goes hyperlocal with climate change fight

How a series of new digital ads aims to drive home the everyday impact of warmer temperatures.

The global effects of climate change can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming to individual people. That’s why the Ontario Government’s latest campaign on the topic shifts the focus to how climate change will impact the communities Canadians live in and the things they do every day.

In a series of new digital ads, people explain to viewers how climate change will have an impact on things they care about, like how shorter winters will keep young snow shovelers from earning money, the increase in major storms will result in more flooded basement man-caves or the impact declining crop yields could have on your favourite pizza toppings.

Creative for the campaign was developed by Bensimon Byrne, with media handled by PHD.

Besides being a bit more lighthearted to stand out from the typical, bleak messages around climate action, Ann Byberg, senior marketing officer for the Ontario Government’s Office of the Premier, also says the idea behind the campaign is to break through the desensitization people might feel towards the same old climate messages that take a global view.

“If you try to understand how endangered things are right now, it feels overwhelming,” she says. “It’s an issue that’s so large that an individual person feels like anything they do would be futile. These videos are really giving someone something to fight for. Instead of fighting against the rise in global temperatures, which feels big and vague, you’re fighting for the snow day so you can go skiing.”

Byberg says the focus for the campaign grew out of past government campaigns around other subjects that were successful by taking more of a hyperlocal approach. It also allows the campaign to tap into things that impact Canadians’ livelihoods and sense of identity.

“It’s an economic issue as well,” Byberg says. “There are restaurants up north who rely on snowmobilers to come by, and there are ski hills and resorts and skating rinks that are all impacted by a shorter, warmer winter. These are things people love and part of our Canadian identity and what we love about living in Ontario. That’s the kind of thing we wanted to latch on to, things that are very personal to people.”

The digital-only ads are also being targeted to consumers who would be most interested in the subject matter. Some of that targeting is based on geo-location – people in urban environments will be more likely to see the pizza ad, for example – but also based on interests (such as people who have been visiting sites for ski resorts and ski equipment will be served the ads centred around skiing, or those who have been researching wine will be served ads around wine).

The campaign launched at the beginning of January and will be running for the rest of the month, but Byberg says the government is currently looking into ways to extend the campaign based on the positive response seen so far.