HBC gets adventurous

The retailer's History Foundation is bringing stories from the past into the future with its first-ever TV campaign.

Hudson's Bay Company History Foundation Celebrates Canada –The Country of Adventurers – With Inspiring New Television Narratives

This story appears in the November 2015 issue of strategy.

After what some have called a historic Canadian election, our country’s history is on many minds.

But recently, the HBC History Foundation went way further back than Trudeaumania to the 17th century, with its first-ever TV campaign, “The Country of Adventurers.” It’s a collaboration between the marketing team at Hudson’s Bay and the board at the foundation, whose mission is to advance knowledge and interest in Canadian history.

The campaign has been rolling out over the fall, and it includes videos profiling important figures in our history, with the stories told with the help of modern-day Canadian public figures.
The first video has Survivorman host Les Stroud tell the story of Dr. John Rae, a Scottish doctor and Arctic explorer who worked for HBC from 1833 to 1856. The second features the story of explorer and surveyor David Thompson, and is told by Canadian Paralympian and activist Rick Hansen.

Toronto’s Red Urban led creative on the campaign, with the media buy – including TV, digital and social – led internally at HBC.

“HBC is in such a unique position to tell those stories because we played such a [significant] role in the development of the country,” says Michael Crotty, EVP and CMO at HBC.

“It’s challenging to tell history in a really interesting way, to be honest,” Crotty says. Pairing modern voices with the historic tales is a way to make the spots feel unique and engaging, he adds.
While HBC is known as a legacy Canadian brand, this campaign is not necessarily meant to drive sales for the retail business, Crotty says.

“This [campaign] enhances that, but first and foremost it’s to tell these stories and continue to get people to think about the unique characters that helped develop and make Canada the great country that it is today.”