Who: Canadian Tire and Taxi Toronto, with Alter Ego, Saints Editorial, Vapor Music and Someplace Nice.
What: A holiday campaign carrying on Canadian Tire’s positioning as “Canada’s Christmas Store.” It’s sentimental but not cloying—the type of heart-warming holiday advertising that British retailers have excelled at in recent years, but we don’t see enough of in Canada.
“We wanted it to feel Christmas-y,” says Taxi Toronto creative director Frank Macera. “What you get from a lot of the U.K. [holiday] work, regardless of budget, is that it has a bit of a magical Christmas feeling to it because of the esthetic.”
When & Where: The national campaign broke on Nov. 12 and runs through Dec. 23. There are two 30-second TV/online spots: “Snowy Search” and “Moonlight Ride.” Canadian Tire is also previewing the spots in Canadian cinemas tomorrow (Nov. 14).
Why: Canadian Tire has shifted its holiday marketing from tactical to be more brand-focused in recent years. This is a continuation of that shift. It also sees Canadian Tire leaning into the word “Christmas” at a time when brands (mostly in the U.S., but in Canada too) have adopted “holidays” as a euphemism for the year’s biggest holiday.
How: All of the action takes place in a picturesque Canadian mountain town that has a Canadian Tire store at its centre. It’s a nod to the central role Canadian Tire plays in so many Canadian communities. “It’s not magical, but it feels sort of storybook,” says Macera of the town, which is known internally as Mount Maple.
“Snowy Search” follows a man and his daughter as they search for a real Christmas tree in the woods that surround the town. The young girl vetos her father’s selections because they are home to wildlife. They compromise with an artificial tree, complete with a squirrel and bird ornament.
“Moonlight Ride” features a young tobogganer who notices an old man and his dog as they trudge their way down a hill into town, and gives them a ride on his sled.
While there are obvious nods to the commercial aspects of Christmas, the emphasis is on the emotions of the season, like goodwill and togetherness. “We wanted to celebrate Christmas a season, not just a day,” says Macera. “It’s not just the day you wake up and open presents; for some people it starts right now—where you start making plans together with family and friends. We wanted to bring those feelings to life in this town.”
The filmmaker: Finnish director Pekka Hara, who also helmed last year’s “Magic” holiday spot for the retailer.
So it was shot in the mountains, right? There’s actually some real production magic going on here, courtesy of Alter Ego. The spots were shot at Earl Bales Park in North Toronto on one of the hottest days of the year (you can watch a brief making of video on Alter Ego’s Instagram page).
“Our partners did an incredible job,” says Macera. “It’s hard to picture what it will look like when you’re doing Christmas in July, and the client was in love with the town and the story. It was a fun ride for everybody involved.”
For the “Moonlight Ride” spot, the actors (and the dog) all rode on a sled attached to a pulley system. The dog in particular was a standout performer, says Macera. “If you can imagine a dog being put on a sled between two strangers… it was great.”
What about the music? Both spots feature a cover version of the song “Love is All Around” performed by Canadian singer Zoe Sky Jordan, whose songs have previously appeared on TV and movie soundtracks.
For the music nerds: The original version was recorded by the British band The Troggs (“Wild Thing”) in 1967, reaching #5 on the U.K. charts. It later enjoyed a 15-week run as a U.K. #1 in 1994, when it was recorded by Wet Wet Wet for the Four Weddings and a Funeral soundtrack. The song’s original writer, Reg Presley, once told the BBC that he used his royalties to pursue research into crop circles. The song has another Christmas connection, as it was recut as “Christmas is All Around” for the movie Love Actually, where it was sung by actor Bill Nighy’s character, Billy Mack.