Visa screens a purpose-led approach for TIFF audiences

The trailer spoofing Pulp Fiction brings attention to "Sharing the Screen," an initiative to expand access to film programming.


Visa Canada is reminding movie fans that there’s no substitute for the real thing to support the launch of a new program to make arts and culture more accessible to communities across Toronto.

A new campaign timed to launch alongside this year’s Toronto International Film Festival shows a film buff re-enacting scenes from a film (which is never stated but easily recognizable as Pulp Fiction) in his office after finding out a co-worker has never seen it. Despite giving it his all (and then some), the spot ends by saying even the best imitation isn’t as good as the real thing.

The campaign supports Visa’s “Sharing the Screen,” a new program launching this year at TIFF that gives access to film screenings, creator talks, premieres and other programming to underrepresented groups, so they too are better able to see “the real thing.”

The 30-second trailer will play before all gala and special presentation films during TIFF. A 15-second version will play before digital screenings on TIFF’s online platform.

This year marks Visa’s 26th as a TIFF partner. Going forward, “Sharing the Screen” will be a cornerstone of the partnership, which was renewed this year for another five years.

“Purpose is such an important part of what we do as a brand,” says Kelly Cranston, Visa Canada’s director of sponsorship marketing. The campaign is, in part, about enhancing perception of the brand, but also around communicating enhanced access and inclusion that “Sharing the Screen” provides. “We try to infuse that into everything we do and how we go to market with various sponsorships, whether it be arts or sports.”

Cranston tells strategy the trailer is a unique communication asset and that Visa feels competitive with other TIFF partners to have the best trailer every year, whether it’s coming to life in support of small business – as it did during lockdowns – or this time around to further boost its brand purpose.

“We have actually, in certain instances, put the [prior] trailers up on social and promoted it with paid media,” Cranston says. With this latest program, Visa is treating it as a soft launch and a great opportunity to engage with TIFF audiences, who are dedicated to, and passionate about, film – as such, it is being used as part of the TIFF sponsorship, and there’s currently no additional buy behind it.

“Film is a timeless passion point, and you can see it in the city,” Cranston says, and why it keeps coming back to TIFF, the largest attended film festival in the world.

Historically, TIFF also appeals to an affluent audience, and offers tangible hosting assets in the core of Toronto’s financial district, where Visa clients are frequently based and a means to offer differentiated benefits to that group. That’s an important part of its outreach, but Cranston stresses there’s an opportunity to leverage “Sharing the Screen” as more of its purpose-based ethos.

TIFF’s mission, meanwhile, includes being more inclusive, and Cranston calls the new program a true collaboration with the film festival’s community access team.

The film re-enacting conceit lends itself to all sorts of extensions, and this could be a creative program Visa leans into going forward, Cranston adds. In its offices, Visa is deploying signage on its elevators to get employees engaged, with movie spoofs around Top Gun, Star Wars and Dirty Dancing, and similar to the trailer above, subtle hints that keen-eyed observers will recognize.

Publicis’ Canadian offices created the trailer, having begun working on Visa in early 2021 after the agency won a global RFP.