New ad campaign set to make a splash in Toronto and beyond

Most advertising campaigns have a hook. In the case of York’s 2007 reputational advertising campaign, that hook has landed a large fish, and it is garnering plenty of attention.

Passersby and transit passengers in Toronto must have wondered last week when they were presented with a streetcar masquerading as a fish, on the King Street line. The wrapped car sports  a teaser sample of York’s innovative new advertising campaign which gears up this week for the Ontario Universities Fair (OUF) – the largest academic recruitment fair in Canada – and continues past OUF into January. To add some punch to the domination, the streetcar wrapped with the York fish will also feature only York ads in the interior. 

Above: Cruising the King Street line is one very big York fish. The text:
An environmentalist sees depleting numbers
A nutritionist sees heart health
A biologist sees a toxic sponge
Question every angle. Study every angle. Research every angle.

In fact, the streetcar has been selected to appear in Repossession Mambo, a major new science fiction thriller that is currently filming in Toronto. The movie, starring Forest Whitaker and Jude Law, is set for release in 2009.

Conceived and implemented by York’s Marketing & Communications Division and doug agency on behalf of the University, the campaign seeks to make a splash in Toronto and beyond – and includes transit advertising, Internet promotions and print advertisements. It continues on the heels of York’s previous North American award-winning reputation campaigns by offering new takes on, and insight into, York University’s unique interdisciplinary approach to education.

"It starts with the streetcar and explodes into the other elements, just in time for the Ontario Universities Fair," says York Chief Marketing Officer Richard Fisher (left). "The campaign has two strands: prospective students and parents; and reputation influencers. In line with the University Academic Plan, the former emphasizes York’s unique interdisciplinary academic experience and the latter adds a heavy emphasis on research and graduate studies.

"The main insight of the campaign is that life doesn’t happen in silos or neat packages, and neither should your education," explains Fisher. "York’s interdisciplinary approach is like night vision for the mind – only interdisciplinarity provides the full picture."

This year’s campaign is an evolution of previous campaigns, adds Laurence Boucher, director, account direction, in Marketing & Communications. "The ads work harder to explain the benefits of interdisciplinarity. There is more specific detail on how it strengthens York’s research and teaching."

Here’s a breakdown of York’s new campaign:

It’s a move that would make Spider-Man proud. York’s interdisciplinary message will be carried on the exterior of a GO Train car travelling along the Lakeshore line, which runs from Burlington to Oshawa via Union Station. The train will be wrapped in a spider-web graphic complete with a spidey York message about interdisciplinarity.

Above: Mockup of a GO Train car wrapped with York’s message

Coupled with the wrapped car, GO passengers on all routes will be able to view York’s message on GO Television, a new service on GO trains. Click here to view the video. They’ll also see a poster ad that targets the different ways York researchers and academics can view a hamburger. Click here to view the ad.

Rolling out on TTC subway cars and streetcars on all routes in Toronto are a series of banner ads which will run until the middle of November. These ads continue the theme established by York’s previous reputation campaigns and include some new additions that get the York interdisciplinary treatment. The TTC interior ads include a hockey puck, the letter "A", a hamburger and a cob of corn. To view the full range of TTC ads, click here.


York is also moving full throttle into the pages of magazines with targeted advertisements in a number of glossy publications. They include Report on Business, Toronto Life, Food and Drink, Walrus and Ottawa Life. Total readership that will view the magazine ads tallies to more than 1.6 million readers. Added to the total are advertisements in GTA publications including North of the City and Post City magazines, bringing the final number of readers receiving York’s message to more than 1.8 million.  

Fisher says the campaign has been extended to the GTA and Ottawa in an effort to carry York’s message to the parents of children who are considering the University as their first choice, and to influencers and decision makers in government and elsewhere. Click here to see the magazine campaign. 

On five Thursdays in October and November, a total of 125,000 subscriber copies each of The Globe & Mail and Toronto Star newspapers will reach doorsteps in a York sleeve wrap with a transparent window over part of the newspaper. The wrap message begins, "An environmentalist sees deforestation; a chemist sees lignin." The Globe version will carry the punchline, "A Canadian studies student sees a national icon", while the Star version will read, "A business major sees TS.B" (Torstar Corporation’s stock symbol). The newspapers will also carry York ads inside during the period, plus an OUF-targeted ad on Sept. 29.

Added to the campaign is an innovative multimedia presence that will debut at OUF. Targeted to high-school students, the campaign features an online presence with banner advertisements on popular chat and e-mail portals including MSN, Hotmail and MuchMusic. Designed to encourage students to visit the York booth, the campaign includes a card, featuring York messaging, that offers three free song downloads from MuchMusic if they attend the formal York recruitment presentation. If students then visit the MuchMusic site, the card will give them the opportunity to enter a contest for three prizes including free tuition, a free meal plan for one year or a MuchMusic tour. They’ll also see a microsite which will tell them about York alumni at MuchMusic.

Circling around the outside of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, home of OUF, will be a cyclist pulling a sandwich board that further reinforces the campaign message and MuchMusic contest. The use of the cyclist  aligns with York’s green influence, says Fisher. All of York’s brochures and information, as well as the free handout bags, are environmentally friendly.

The free lanyards given to students also bear the message "I used to be a pop bottle", further highlighting York’s sensitivity toward the environment.

Above: York’s recycled lanyards for OUF

"It’s the most layered campaign York has ever done, designed to create the impression of ubiquity," says Fisher. "We’ll certainly be getting the University’s message out this fall and as we run up to York’s 50th anniversary in 2009. Stay tuned."

Story by Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor.