Who: Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, with Sid Lee for strategy and creative.
What: “The Secret Menu,” a guerrilla marketing stunt and awareness campaign outlining the often exploitative working conditions faced by Canada’s migrant workers.
When & Where: The guerrilla marketing component took place in popular bars and restaurants in Toronto and Ottawa, all leading to a dedicated website called TheSecretMenu.ca. It’s being supported by a 60-second video running on MWAC’s social channels.
Why: The campaign is intended to shine a light on the “human cost” of food production in Canada. Every year, more than 60,000 seasonal agricultural workers come to Canada from Mexico, Jamaica and other Caribbean countries to harvest the foods served by restaurants.
These workers often face exploitation including unsafe working conditions, poor housing, and no medical coverage. According to Sid Lee, 74% of Mexican migrant farmers reported being given no workplace health coverage or safety information at all.
“Most of the food we eat every day comes from the backbreaking labour of migrants, this is the secret behind all our menus,” said Syed Hussan, executive director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “With this collaboration, Sid Lee helped us convey the issue to new people by garnering media attention.”
How: The campaign uses the QR code, which became a restaurant mainstay during the pandemic and is still in use by some establishments today. Scanning the table-top menu—which were covertly applied to restaurant table tops across Toronto and Ottawa—takes visitors to the dedicated website, where they learn the human cost of food through nine menu items—including “Dangerously Delicious Corn Bread,” “Squashed Dreams Ravioli,” and the “Wickedly Cruel Whiskey Sour.”
The accompanying video is told from the perspective of a migrant worker, who describes facing unsafe conditions and exploitation. “[Y]our food should come with fair working conditions and full immigration status for workers like me,” says the voiceover.
According to Sid Lee, the video helped MWAC gather more than 700 signatories to a petition calling for all migrant workers to be immediately granted permanent resident status. The video, meanwhile, has become one of the most viewed on the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change’s social channels.
And we quote: “We wanted to help bring the significant issues faced by Canada’s migrant agricultural workers to the forefront of people’s attention. And since QR code menus have become a staple in restaurants, we saw a perfect fit and opportunity to use the medium to convey the hidden problem and play with the element of mystery on different levels.” — Matt Fraracci, creative director, Sid Lee