We are an intersection

There has a lot of discussion about the new Live With Culture ads that are playing in various US alternative weeklies. City Hall on Friday saw a media frenzy, with cameras from various stations getting shots of print-outs of the ads in the Live With Culture office. On that day’s CBC evening newscast, a humourless “image consultant” they had wrangled up looked over the ads and shook her head in a serious way, saying “these send mixed messages.” I assume she’d be more comfortable with a more glossy, on message, tourist approach we saw with Toronto Unlimited, where Toronto was rendered indistinguishable from the Daytons or Pittsburghs of the world. This campaign has already received flack from the usual nattering nabobs of negativity in media circles (exceptions as usual: BlogTO has a reasonable discussion going on as does Reading Toronto) but I’m not sure what the big problem is. This hasn’t been billed as the definitive ad campaign for this city, and it’s running in a just-left-of-mainstream market down south.

Toronto is only beginning to live in the imagination of Torontonians — but we’re certainly off the radar to most Americans who don’t have a particular personal connection to the city (a draft dodger uncle, “original six” hockey fans, Glenn Gould groupies, etc.). Anything that can wedge itself into their collective minds, even by using quirky weird humour, is a worthwhile attempt.

The ongoing problem with marketing Toronto is it has been impossible to sum it up with a catchphrase because Toronto is so many things at once. Toronto is not tops at any one thing alone (except, perhaps, worrying about this subject), but does many things well. We’re sort of the Madonna of cities — not the best looking or greatest singer and dancer — but packaged together, a superstar.

That’s why we’re particularly excited about our upcoming issue of Spacing (on its way to the printer now) that looks at the city through our intersections. I think we’ve stumbled on how to sum us up easily and honestly: as one giant intersection. “Toronto, the intersection of everything” — of culture, people, architecture, environment, and ideas.

Can a person or city identify as an “intersection?” Maybe Toronto can. Let’s be bold and celebrate the city in new way. After paging through the the new issue, it’s clear that if there was some way to base a marketing campaign on this idea of intersection, we might have an effective way of telling the world why they should come to this city, and maybe also help Torontonians worry less about who we are.

12 comments

  1. Shawn

    I don’t think whether a person/city identify as an intersection – the question is how do you reflect that identification in a way that makes people feel it’s something they should visit and thus become part of (while spending their currency, of course) without making the natives feel embarrassed doing so, as I think some of the current and past Toronto campaigns have done.

  2. Ugh, those ads are so lame. I’m sure they’re proud of themselves for breaking out of some advertising mold, but yeesh, it takes forever to getthe gist of those things. It’s not an HBO miniseries for godsakes! It’s meant to be grasped instantly.

  3. Does anyone else see the irony in Spacing summarizing Toronto as a giant intersection? Vaughan, or Mississauga, maybe…

  4. I don’t think Brent understands the meaning of “irony”.

    Also, the word Toronto means “crossroads”, “meeting place”, which is what Shawn is decribing Toronto as.

  5. Intersection: likely an apt description of Toronto, and most certainly a fitting description coming from Spacing.

    Giant intersection: perhaps an apt description metaphorically, but most certainly an ironic description coming from Spacing.

  6. Brent> I don’t think I was being ironic. In practice, I try not to be ironic as much as possible. So, I don’t understand what you’re getting at. You don’t like intersections?

  7. I understand where you’re coming from with the intersection comment. What made Toronto Unlimited unsuccessful was that it didn’t highlight any multiculturalism in the general sense.

  8. Intersection? I’m more concerned about the idea of living in Madonna.

  9. Did you see the Confessions of a Dance Floor tour when it was on TV in November? It was magnificent. She’s still got it.

  10. Does anyone know who is the ad agency for these latest ads?

  11. Shawn: I love intersections! I just don’t love giant ones (I think we’re on the same wavelength here). I read “giant intersection” and think of behemoths like, say, Hwy 7 and Weston Rd in Vaughan. So while “intersection” may be apt, and I see what you are metaphorically trying to get at with “giant intersection”, a picture of Hwy 7 and Weston keeps coming back to me…

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