York’s 50th goes underground

Starting today, Torontonians will experience first-hand York’s 50th anniversary thanks to a 30-day visual domination of the Bloor-Yonge subway station. As of today, the station’s dreary underground environment has been transformed into a bright and energetic mini York University campus. Now signature red and white York messaging covers every available surface and dominates the visual space.

Above: Showcasing students, York’s 50th-birthday messaging will dominate Bloor-Yonge station from pillar to post

The “station domination” of the Bloor-Yonge Station runs for one month and is a key part of York’s effort to let Toronto know that the interdisciplinary University just up the subway line is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The advertising campaign conveys York’s pride in its anniversary and its 50 years of accomplishment, and looks forward to the University’s next 50 years.

Right: Stair-raisers are transformed with messages about York University’s 50th anniversary

More than 360,000 commuters travel each day through Bloor-Yonge Station, making it one of the busiest transit hubs in Canada. To convey York’s interdisciplinary message and the University’s pride about its anniversary, the campaign is using a variety of ads. These include 150 station posters, six large-format backlit posters, two sets of stair-raisers, 22 turnstile wraps, four fare booth wraps and a host of other eye-catching wall graphics, platform ads and a wall mural with variations on the phrase “50 years ago a dream began”.

Support for the campaign comes from York’s 50th anniversary presenting sponsors: TD Bank Financial Group, Enbridge Inc., Cineplex Entertainment and media sponsor CTVglobemedia, and from patrons Tim and Frances Price, The S. Schulich Foundation and the Lambert family.

During the afternoon of March 26, York’s official birthday, student volunteers from york is U will be on site in the station to hand out U50 bookmarks and coupons for York’s own Las Nubes Coffee from Timothy’s Coffees of the World to work-weary commuters.

York Chief Marketing Officer Richard Fisher (left) says the subway domination campaign is designed to create excitement about York and celebrate the University’s anniversary and its students, who represent York’s future. The campaign, which was conceived and implemented a year ago, carries on a successful tactical campaign that was first implemented by the University in 2004 at St. George subway station and builds on York’s now well-established brand.

"Many still think that York is an upstart University," says Fisher, "and they aren’t aware of the many accomplishments of York’s students and faculty. Because of our location, many Torontonians will not have the opportunity to pass through York, so we thought we’d bring York to them."

When faced with the difficult economy and budget cutbacks, Fisher with the help of the York University Foundation decided to look to the University’s corporate partners and friends to see if any sponsorship dollars could be made available to help offset the cost of the campaign.

When the call went out, the response was overwhelming. “We were very successful and the sponsorships we secured were based on York’s positive relationships developed with the University’s partners,” says Fisher. More than half of the cost of the campaign was recovered through sponsorship from York’s 50th anniversary presenting sponsors.

Right: Station fare booths have been transformed

The campaign, which was designed by Toronto-based doug agency with media planning by Gaggi Media, also offers excellent value for the University, says Fisher. It drives home the message that York University is a dynamic, thriving community with a brilliant future. The subway domination medium, which is roughly equivalent in cost to buying four pages in a daily newspaper, is extremely effective because the campaign is part of the subway environment for four weeks and every commuter who passes through the station each day will take in York’s message.

Right: Advertisements at track level will catch the attention of commuters

Fisher says it is especially important to restore York’s reputation given the dramatic decline in demand for first-year spots at York by Ontario high-school students. "Communicating York’s message is more important than ever," he says, "and we chose to do it in a bold and innovative way."

For the next month at least, it will be hard for anyone passing through the station to forget that York is celebrating the big five-O.

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor