Metrolinx acknowledges that it’s in the midst of an ‘awkward phase’

Who: Metrolinx and Leo Burnett Canada, with PHD Canada for media.

What: “Transit change. It’s happening,” a new awareness campaign acknowledging that the transit agency serving the GTA and Hamilton area is going through a bit of an “awkward phase” as it attempts to complete a series of ambitious projects.

When & Where: The campaign broke last week and runs through May. It includes cinema advertising, digital video, radio and print, all driving to a dedicated website,

Why: Metrolinx is in the midst of a series of ambitious projects with a stated objective of doubling transit’s share of travel, tripling trains, light rail lines and bus rapid transit and quadrupling GO Rail service.

It’s also undergoing something of a brand resurgence under chief marketing officer Mark Childs, who joined nearly two years ago after spending much of his career in consumer goods marketing with brands including Samsung, Campbell Company of Canada and Kellogg’s.

“It was really about bringing our portfolio of brands to life,” says Childs of the agency’s general marketing approach. “We are approaching marketing and advertising in a way that is very much business and goal oriented, and it’s something the team here has embraced”

At the same time, the new campaign also acknowledges consumer frustration with the progress of some Metrolinx projects. The government agency was in the news last week after it was announced that construction on one of its major projects, Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown LRT, now won’t be complete until “well into” 2022—this after what one Toronto city councillor described as nine years of “construction hell” that has led to more than 100 businesses closing along the Eglinton Avenue corridor.

How: The creative strategy uses that awkward teenage phase—braces, voices breaking, the first blooming of facial hair—as an analogy for Metrolinx’s growing pains as it works to create a better transit system for the GTA.

“Metrolinx is building a world-class transit system for a better region. But before that happens, it means going through…a phase,” says the opening of the 60-second anchor spot, which goes on to acknowledge the “pretty big gap” between where the transit agency is now and where it hopes to be.

The campaign also includes a series of 15-second ads that acknowledge the slow pace of construction and the mess it has created by disrupting traffic flow, and asking the public to envision the final product as a reward for their patience.

And we quote: “Everyone embraced the [creative] idea because it was so unexpected, and that has been part of the journey that we’ve been on—which is to create work that stands out and is unexpected in the transit space.” —Mark Childs, chief marketing officer, Metrolinx.





Chris Powell