Canadian Tire and Taxi focus on shared values for COVID ad

Who: Canadian Tire, with Taxi for creative, Touché for media, and Eggplant, Saints and Darling the production partners.

What: A quickly produced TV ad addressing the health pandemic.

When & Where: The TV ad debuted a couple of weeks ago, running in French and English.

Why: Like a lot of marketers, Canadian Tire had an entire spring campaign almost ready to go when COVID-19 forced most of the country into shutdown. The retailer hit pause on everything, reviewed all the work, and realized that none could be used at this time.

Within days, the Taxi team, led by strategy director Amy Badun. creative director Frank Macera, and director of client services Adam Ball, had a new brand plan in front of the client. By March 17, they were talking about how they could change their communications. “It’s tough for any client to say ‘Hey what should our message be in a global pandemic?'” said Badun. “What we kind of landed on right away was that the smart thing for us to do was to remain really true to who we are as a brand and express it in the current culture.”

How: Canadian Tire is nearly 100 years old and really is deeply integrated with communities across the country, even considered an essential service by many, said Macera. “We wanted to show the life and the humanity that’s present in these communities, regardless of what’s happening outside,” he said.

The ad, called “Values,” announces Canadian Tire’s $5 million contribution to COVID relief efforts. Aside from that, it’s a series of shots of people from all demos and in all settings living life with loved ones. It closes with a promise from Canadian Tire to help them at a difficult time. “Because values matter more now than ever. Not because we are Canadian Tire, but because we are Canadian.” The close frames even drop the word “Tire” from the company’s iconic logo.

Has Canadian Tire used that line before? “No, this was the first time that we’ve used it,” said Macera. “And it’s funny because it seems like something that should be used… the sign of something that can be great is, once you know it, it is obvious. But it’s not obvious right away.”

Any secrets to working so quickly? There was no formal brief, more of a ‘Just get started’ directive from the client. The key was Taxi’s working relationship with Canadian Tire, with the agency striving to be an “extension of their brand,” said Badun. That means that even without a written brief, “we’re able to pick up what we know the right thing to do is for them. And push forward, and push forward quickly.”

“A lot of thinking and strategic thinking, the groundwork was there,” said Macera. “Not to say that we were ready for it, but the groundwork, because of the partnership, was already there.”

What’s next? “It’s a great question, like where do we go from here?” said Badun. Her plan actually did look beyond this first stage, but what and when Canadian Tire speaks next will largely be driven by factors beyond its control. There’s the practical challenge of being able to produce new work during the lockdown, but there’s also the larger issue of how people are feeling.

“So in terms of how do we go forward and where do we go forward from here, it’s to keep that finger on the pulse,” said Badun. “I think the marketing side of us might tell us to do one thing, but it’s the human side of us that we need to listen to.”

David Brown