Destination Toronto bets on ‘Never Have I Ever’ strategy to rally local tourism

The $4.2 million campaign, which includes the launch of the My Toronto pass, aims to get locals and drive-in visitors to try things that have been in their backyard this whole time.

Destination-TOIt’s best known as a drinking game, and now the phrase “never have I ever” is being deployed as part of a campaign to rally people around local Toronto tourist destinations they’ve yet to visit.

Created by Destination Toronto, along with the city’s BIAs and tourism and hospitality sectors, “Never Have I Ever, TO,” is aimed as a collective show of support for these beleaguered industries, asking locals and visitors to discover their own “Never Have I Ever” experiences, like braving the CN Tower EdgeWalk.

It’s a $4.2-million marketing campaign running until October 30, targeting TV, social media, digital, and OOH, aimed first at enticing locals, and then visitors from nearby “drive-in” markets in Ontario and Quebec.

“It’s about engagement of both visitors and locals alike that the city is open and people can safely and smartly enjoy the city,” says Jon Mamela, CMO and EVP of Destination Toronto.

Hotels_Retarg_1_300x600The organization, he says, went wide with the creative to showcase the breadth of experiences available, so if “living life on the edge” at EdgeWalk is too bold for someone’s liking, there’s also “having a taco for dessert” at a local restaurant or “walking under the sea” at Ripley’s Aquarium.

Without alienating any demo, Mamela says the diversity of experiences offered in Toronto is all also about getting tourists to see the city in a different light. Part of the strategy through phase one of the media engagement is to target 29- to 45-year-olds, an audience that skews more female.

Historically, it has not advertised locally in its own backyard for some time, he says.

“There’s certainly a lot of pent up demand for travel, and we are seeing interest in travel more locally, and this is a big part of capitalizing on that trend,” Mamela says.

When it comes to the array of media mix, Mamela says the integration was essential for Destination Toronto, working closely with the City of Toronto to capitalize on some media channels together, and to coincide with messaging the city is also planning to bring to market in the near future.

The campaign also includes My Toronto Pass – a new mobile-exclusive passport featuring special offers on attractions, tours, and experiences and launches in conjunction with “Never Have I Ever, TO.”

“The Pass is one indicator and conversion point,” Mamela says. The group met its target of 40 local tourist destinations to participate, he says, with more to be added in time. In terms of downloads as an indicator of interest, it’s has a target of 10,000 downloads.

“Never Have I Ever, TO” also takes advantage of new and existing ways locals and visitors alike can venture further and explore specific interests, including initiatives like ActiveTO, CafeTO, StrollTO and the recently announced DineTOgether - the City’s new restaurant program, running this fall to showcase the wealth of dining options in the city.

While it is focused more locally than ever before, the ad spend, Mamela says, is comparable to past efforts, while the “Never Have I Ever” positioning will be deployed seasonally during the winter months as well. As more restrictions are lifted and reopenings take place, other hard-hit sectors will be added alongside the campaign’s evolution as the next phase, which will expand its targeting geared to markets like Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal, rolls out.

More campaign details can be found on the dedicated Never Have I Ever, TO site.

Bensimon Byrne, which has worked for the organization for the last 18 months, did the creative, while longstanding partner Wavemaker handled the media side.