Canadian Tire lights up Christmas

Who: Canadian Tire, with Leo Burnett for creative, Touché for media, and Hubert Davis directing.

What: Canadian Tire’s Christmas ad.

When & Where: The ad is running on TV and online starting today (Nov. 12) through Christmas.

Why: Retail advertising in a pandemic is tricky. And while Canadian Tire calls itself Canada’s Christmas Store, it decided not to showcase gifts and other holiday essentials in its TV advertising.

“What was interesting about the assignment is that it was a spot from a retailer that really was less about the products they were selling, and more about just being human, offering a little bit of light to consumers,” said Kelley Zettel, creative director at Leo Burnett. “The ask was a message that acknowledges that this year was unique and different and hard, but also offer a nice message of hope.”

How: “We decided to tell a story that we thought really captured how a lot of Canadians are feeling right now,” said Zettel.

The story focuses on a healthcare worker mom who has been too busy to help her son put up the Christmas tree. When she comes home from work late one night, she discovers that her son has strung Christmas lights (it is the only obvious Canadian Tire product shot, which Zettel called “metaphorical lightness in the darkness”) all around her bedroom, and fallen asleep on her bed while waiting to show her. “Wish you light and love this Christmas season,” says a voiceover.

“I think it was quite brave of Canadian Tire to make a retail Christmas spot that was not focused on sales,” said Zettel. Instead, it presented an honest portrayal of the struggles of this holiday season, while still ending the story with a positive, hopeful note.

The “Now More Than Ever” score: There are hints about this being a unique year, and Canadian Tire took this approach because it is a tough year (see below). But the “now more than ever” is subtle enough that the ad could work next year when the pandemic is no longer a thing (it won’t be a thing next year, right? RIGHT?) We give it a 5.

The holiday experience: Canadian Tire has also created what it describes as a “multi-sensory drive along Christmas trail” in Toronto, consisting of 1.5 kilometres of lights and a “larger-than-life” advent calendar featuring the season’s most popular toys. The $25 per car admission fee is going to its Jumpstart Charities.

And we quote: “This has been a really tough year for Canadians, and as a company that is there for life in Canada no matter what life looks like, we wanted to make sure our message at Christmas reflected that. We wanted to create a feel-good piece for the season, knowing that while some things will be different, the things that really matter haven’t changed.“ — Eva Salem, vice-president strategic marketing at Canadian Tire.

David Brown