The Toronto Star brings the heat

Who: Toronto Star, with Leo Burnett for creative, The Greater for strategy, Blue Noise for production and media, and Get Wrapped for fabrication.

What: “Truth We Need, For the World We Want,” the first brand campaign in several years for the daily newspaper, which was acquired by Jordan Bitove and Paul Rivett’s NordStar Capital LP in 2020.

When & Where: The multi-platform campaign launched last month and is running mostly across out-of-home, including bus wraps, billboards and TSAs, all bearing attention-getting headlines. Those assets are accompanied by a series of “truth boxes” addressing the paper’s coverage of hot-button issues (see below).

Why: At its heart it’s a subscription drive, but there’s a broader objective here around establishing the Star‘s willingness to bring a point of view to its news coverage.

Michael Beckerman, chief client officer with Torstar Corp., said they hired Leo Burnett about six months ago to help restate what the Star stands for—bringing important critical thinking to a world where news is both abundant and typically free.

“[We’re starting] to put a stake in the ground as to what the Star brand stands for in the marketplace,” he said. “It’s rooted in trusted, incredible journalism, and we want to be advocates for everyday progress.”

The campaign is intended to convey the Star‘s willingness to champion the city and its institutions, while also calling out its flaws. “We can believe the Toronto International Film Festival is one of the greatest film festivals in the world, but the lack of BIPOC representation on both sides of the camera is inexcusable,” said Beckerman. “We can believe that the Toronto food scene is one of the greatest in the world, and celebrates our ethnic diversity, yet it’s inexcusable for a lower-income family to struggle to feed their kids healthy food. We love this city and country enough to not love it unconditionally.”

How: A series of out-of-home ads feature headlines that Beckerman describes as “powerful sweeping statements,” such as “Indifference never made a difference,” “Do not accept the terms and conditions,” and “When you accept nothing, you change everything.”

The campaign’s most unique asset is a series of three so-called “truth boxes” in downtown Toronto that address the newspaper’s coverage of important issues, most notably climate change. The Star‘s instantly recognizable blue boxes have been made to look like they are melting, accompanied by the headline “Read how the Star is covering Canada’s changing climate.” People who scan a QR code in the box’s window are taken to the newspaper’s climate coverage.

“We wanted Instagrammable [executions] that created interest and conversation,” said Beckerman. “We purposely led with climate because we think it’s the most important issue facing our world. A big part of this campaign is to get people to stop and reflect a little bit.”

Future boxes will address other hot-button issues, said Steve Persico, Leo Burnett’s senior vice-president, creative director. “We talked a whole lot about the iconic nature of those boxes, he said. “It felt like newspaper brands had a presence within the city because they were on every single corner up until a few years ago.”

And we quote: “We’re not shy about talking about our brand publicly because we know that’s good for our business, and consequently it’s good for our newsroom and good for the city and the country.” — Michael Beckerman, chief client officer, Torstar Corp.

Chris Powell