Toronto businesses ask for a bit more time to make it through lockdowns

A campaign aims to show that even though the end is in sight, businesses still need help.

Screen Shot 2021-06-09 at 10.43.27 AM

The pandemic has been devastating for small businesses in Toronto, many of which have been shuttered for months under some of the strictest and longest-running lockdowns in the country.

Now, as the province prepares to ease those restrictions, the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) is launching a new, integrated campaign developed by Toronto agency Berners Bowie Lee to encourage people to make sure their local businesses can make it to the light at the end of tunnel.

“We wanted to make sure that people realize just because the lockdown is ending and there is an end to this possibly in sight, that doesn’t mean businesses are out of the water just yet,” explains Devon Williamson, a founding partner with Berners Bowie Lee. “Businesses actually need help now more than ever.”

The campaign, “Buy Toronto Time,” consists of TV, radio and social elements, as well as a large OOH component featuring 34 businesses on 100 billboards across the GTA that have been locally targeted to showcase businesses from the neighbourhoods they’re in.

Global-CheeseFurther, participating businesses have placed provocative posters in their windows that show the name of the business and its opening date on tombstone, with the death date left blank, illustrating that while it is not yet too late to save these businesses, it could be soon if they do not have the support they need to recover. There are currently more than 400 of the tombstone posters in businesses across Toronto, and those that have yet to sign up are invited to join the campaign via its website to get a poster of their own.

Meanwhile, on its Instagram account, “Buy Toronto Time” is sharing the stories of individual businesses and their struggles during the lockdown. Those businesses are also in the video spot, showing the role they play in their communities.

At the heart of the campaign is the idea that “Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods,” says Michael Murray, also a founding partner at Berners Bowie Lee, and that the businesses in those neighbourhoods help make up their identity.

“That’s really important, and if people really love their neighbourhoods and those businesses disappear, the character of those neighbourhoods will disappear with them,” he says. “The intention is also to remind people how much they love their neighbourhoods and show the journey these businesses have been on and put forth the idea that if you want your businesses to be here tomorrow, you still have to support them.”

This is especially true of those businesses that have struggled to get their message out during the lockdown, says Murray.

“Restaurants and bars have done a very good job getting their narrative across,” he notes. “What we were very conscious of talking about was people who haven’t really been part of the narrative, like barbers, nail salons, a kids party store and convenience stores.”

OOH_billboard (1)