Canadian Tire lights up some joy for its holiday campaign

The retailer sees its TV ad as a chance for "brand moments," leaving product promo to digital and an experiential Christmas drive-thru.

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A lot of its competition is focusing on talking about its assortment and delivery options, but Canadian Tire still sees the holidays as an opportunity for brand building, focusing on joy and celebration in its broadcast ad and letting other channels handle the product-focused messaging – including experiential.

The spot leading this year’s holiday campaign shows a frontline healthcare worker who cannot find the time to decorate the family tree. It doesn’t look like that is going to change when she is forced to come home from a late shift in a snowstorm, but she finds her young son has strewn Christmas lights across her bedroom.

According to Eva Salem, Canadian Tire’s VP of marketing, the spot is meant to be an acknowledgment of what’s happening with the pandemic, but recognizing the key role the holidays play in showing loved ones you care about them.

“Even with the pandemic, there is still joy, love and celebration,” Salem says.

Though providing warmth and emotion are still the predominant marketing goals of the season, retailers like Walmart and Best Buy have been leaning on a bit more functionality in their holiday campaigns, explicitly calling out ecommerce propositions and in-demand products to serve customers who are looking to get what they want, how they want to, in an efficient and safe way.

But Canadian Tire isn’t taking that approach with its mass ads, even as the company reports a 211% spike in online sales, eclipsing $1 billion for the year-to-date and doubling its penetration year-over-year.

“With the holidays, we see it as an opportunity for brand moments,” Salem says. The objective was to go as broad as possible, while speaking to what is most important to its core demo of families with kids. Also, the more brand-focused approach helps deemphasizing urgency shops, which helps not draw too many people to store.

This holiday spot was created by Leo Burnett, with Touché on media, which includes a partnership with Corus for the “Countdown to the Holidays” programming on the Hallmark Channel. Salem says ad spend is a bit flat compared to last year’s holiday season, when there were two different spots.

Salem says that it’s been a while since Canadian Tire has done product-focused messaging on TV, using other channels to reach customers with that kind of messaging, such as flyers and digital, where the “massive footprint is all product, all the time.” Last week, Canadian Tire Corporation reported consolidated comparable sales were up 18.9% for Q3, driven by the Canadian Tire and Mark’s banners. Part of this increased was attributed to experiments with digital marketing efforts designed to generate more engagement with members.

But for this holiday season, Canadian Tire is also showing off products consumers are looking for using a channel that has been heavily disrupted this year: experiential.



From Nov. 18 to Dec. 20 at a north Toronto location, a multi-sensory, 1.5 kilometre drive-thru Christmas Trail will feature elves, an outsized Advent calendar, thousands of lights and a slew of popular toys and other holiday essentials.

“For years, Canadian Tire has positioned itself as Canada’s Christmas store, and we believe we can own that positioning given our assortment and the role we play in Canadians’ lives,” Salem says.

Given the pandemic, it made sense to use this distanced approach with an outdoor venue, Salem says, adding that the event ties into the larger campaign, broadly speaking, bringing joy to Canadians when it’s been a bit of a struggle and life being more complicated.

“We turned it into this bombastic, massive thing, and we thought we could have a lot of fun with it.”

The activation was was developed and executed by Canadian Tire’s in-house communications and events teams, with Weber Shandwick leading media relations. Over the course of the entire Christmas Trail, Canadian Tire also anticipates it will generate about $135,000 for Jumpstart Charities for the now sold-out event.