Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa sing of friendship’s benefits

In a new joint destination marketing campaign, the three cities are hoping to encourage local tourism to help rebuild their visitor economies after COVID.

The destination marketers for Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal have come together to deliver a positive message of friendship as pandemic travel restrictions are finally starting to lift.

With the playful “City Friends with Benefits” campaign, Ottawa Tourism, Tourisme Montréal and Destination Toronto are working collectively for the first time to promote travel between the three cities.

“The partnership between the three cities is longstanding in terms of working together to represent a part of Canada,” explains Jon Mamela, EVP and chief marketing officer for Destination Toronto. “We’ve always found the opportunity when going internationally to work together. Domestically, though, this is a new frontier for us.”

The campaign is led by a four-minute music video that reimagines Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” with new lyrics to highlight some of what the three cities have to offer their visitors.

It is running across social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook, as well as digital and OOH. It is also being released over Spotify, TikTok and YouTube, drawing on music industry marketing strategies for its launch.

The campaign is supported by a specially-developed microsite, as well as travel discounts offered by both Via Rail and Air Canada along the corridor.

The partnership was actually conceived last year as marketers for the three cities recognized “we all were facing the same challenge where consumers were looking to move out of the cities for a vacation and destination choice,” Mamela says. “The effort to collectively rebuild and restart our visitor economy is key, and sticking together sometimes gets us further along than battling it out on our own.”

Due to pandemic restrictions, the idea was “paused for a year or so,” he adds.

But that year of delay wasn’t wasted, according to David Rosenberg, partner and CCO with Bensimon Byrne, which developed the campaign. Instead, it gave the partners on the project more time to work out all of the finer details.

“Given that we had the idea on the table for as long as we did, there was a lot of development and a lot of time to look at all of the nooks and the crannies of the idea,” he says. “It was a very productive, collaborative relationship.”

Ultimately, the goal for the three cities was to break through and drive “attention, buzz and conversation,” says Mamela.

The optimistic tone of the campaign is a big part of that effort. As COVID restrictions begin to scale back, “people need to feel the positive vibes and I think they come through in the work,” says Rosenberg.

Destination Toronto intends to use the joint campaign as a foundation for its marketing efforts, Mamela says, and will follow it up with its “Never Have I Ever T.O.” campaign, also developed by Bensimon Byrne.

“I’d assume it’s the same with our colleagues in Montreal and Ottawa,” he adds.