The Salvation Army’s hidden poverty tour

Tourists get an unexpected view of how the issue can go unseen in Canada.


As travellers’ eyes were turning to Canadian cities for Canada 150, the Salvation Army used the opportunity for a bit of guerrilla advertising for its poverty awareness campaign in Toronto.

A new phase of an ongoing campaign intends to expose that poverty isn’t limited to homelessness, arguably its most visible form. Just as the Salvation Army did last summer and around the holidays, new work from Grey Canada shows that those with homes and families can live below the poverty line too.

At the campaign’s heart is a tour bus that drove real tourists to not just Toronto’s hot spots, but showed that the poverty that can live close by. In a video produced ahead of the Canada Day long weekend, the bus’ tour guide points out Toronto’s Eaton Centre shopping mall, saying that more than 50 million people shop there every year “unless they’re one of the one-in-10 Canadians who struggle to pay for basic necessities.”

“We were worried we wouldn’t be able to fill seats on the bus, but on the day we had people lining up half an hour early,” says James Ansley, executive creative director at Grey Toronto.

The campaign will live as online video and display advertising, as well as in print and out-of-home. Unlike the Salvation Army’s holiday campaigns, this phase of the campaign is meant to drive online donations – a new venture for the non-profit that is seeking newer, younger donors.

The non-digital executions are all designed to look like traditional tourism advertising but similarly conceal hints of poverty within their classically illustrated landscapes.

Media duties were overseen by MediaCom.

Grey also developed a virtual reality execution that allows those with a VR headset to view 360-degree pictures of Canadian cities footnoted with information about poverty and the charitable organization is doing to fight it.