It’s been a while since Toronto radio listeners heard ’90s hip-hop star Snow with any regularity, but he’s been blanketing the airwaves again this week.
The “Informer” performer is back on GTA-area radio stations as part of a new campaign for the City of Toronto’s Transportation Division, informing residents of the city’s snow-clearing plan in an insidiously catchy 30-second spot created by the City’s longtime agency of record, Publicis Canada.
The song has already caught the ear of listeners, inspiring a Reddit thread on r/askTO called “Did I just hear Canadian rapper ‘Snow’ on the radio singing about Toronto’s Snow clearing program?”
Radio has been a mainstay in the City’s annual communications about residential snow-clearing, but the goal this year was to avoid some of the tried-and-true approaches that have characterized previous efforts, said Tyler Schell, associate creative director of Publicis in Toronto.
“There are the usual tropes in radio ads, but we wanted to break through,” he said. “We’ve got a lot details to get out, so how do we do that in a memorable way that gets this information into people’s brains and make it enjoyable?”
Schell soon hit on the idea of a song, figuring it would be a natural fit with radio, and in subsequent discussions with group account director Silvia Parkinson, it didn’t take long for Snow’s name to surface. “We said ‘Wait a minute, we’re doing [an ad about snow], how much more of a perfect match could it be?”
Within just a couple of weeks of Publicis reaching out to Snow’s team, the hip-hop star showed up at Toronto audio house SNDWRX to cut the song. In true hip-hop star fashion, he showed up with a small crew, including one member with a guard dog on a leash.
“We were told ‘Don’t go in for a pet,'” recalled Schell. “But they rolled in like proper Toronto street, which was kind of cool.”
It was a two-hour recording session, with the star “Snow-ifying” the lyrics Schell had written. “When it snows in the city we salt streets right away,” he raps in the reggae-infused song. “So you can stay safe, and go about your day. Then we’ll keep an eye on the snow oh-oh fall, so no-no-no worries. You don’t need to call. ‘Cause when the snow reaches 8 cm tall, we’ll be coming round your way with the plow.”
The campaign is part of a broader communications approach that includes direct mail, display and pre-roll video. But don’t be surprised if there’s a remix next year. “When Snow was leaving the studio, he said ‘When are we doing the next one?’ said Schell. “He was a fan.”