Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Audi turns our parks into ads

Read more articles by

UPDATE: we received this email from City staff — “Film office requested the TT ‘sculptures’ be removed by the applicant. Staff told me that they have all been removed from city property as of this afternoon.” Also check the comments section for more responses from City Hall staff.
– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Over the last few days many Spacing readers ave emailed us with questions about the mysterious ads by Audi that have appeared in our parks. Rami Tambello of has a jump on it and is trying to get some answers. is asking Councillor Kyle Rae, Chairman of the Economic Development Committee to investigate the Film and Television Office for violations of City policy that resulted in the Audi TT signs fiasco.

Apparently nobody is minding the shop at the Film and Television Office. These signs were installed ostensibly as “set dressing” for an Audi TV commercial in about 50 locations around town, in parks and on road allowance. But there is no TV commercial and the FTO was hoodwinked into issuing permits for this advertising campaign….

The signs come with this permit attached, which was issued to SBC Events Inc.:

But they are not set dressing at all, and there is no TV commercial. According to Audi itself, in this press release, the signs are billboards. From the press release: “On May 16, 17 and 18, Audi Canada will garnish Toronto’s streets with six-foot high, fifteen-foot long double Ts (TT). The “Street Ts” will be moving displays that grace each location for a day and cover more than 120 sites throughout the city during the three day period. Though predominantly positioned in Toronto’s financial district, the “Street Ts” will also make their way to key arteries, such as the Don Valley Parkway, Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Blvd. And on Friday, May 18, they will move to the 400 and 401 to catch the long-weekend cottage traffic.”


If you want to see these removed from your local park email your city councillor.

Submit your complaints directly to Audi and their marketing partners:
Audi Canada:
Doug Clark
(905) 428-4893 or Mobile: (905) 409-6364

– – – – – – – –
Lowe Roche:
Geoffrey Roche
(416) 927-9794 or Mobile: (416) 409-2524

– – – – – – – –
Julie Rusciolelli
(416) 640-5525 or Mobile: (416 )457-9954

photos by David Sky



  1. please ask for these marketing things to be removed from city streets as well. your item says that most of these things would be installed in the financial district. i assure you that they were/are a pain for people in the financial district, especially because of a lack of sidewalk space these days (i.e., the falling marble).

  2. But I bet John Barber thinks its OK !

    Personally this makes me sick. Can people have some respite from being sold stuff ?

  3. I noticed these things and I’m shocked by them, I really don’t like them. I haven’t seen the ones downtown, but I have seen the three on my way to work, and they sit in high traffic areas. They’re really ugly and I’m glad that they’ll be taken down soon.

    – High Park – on the west side of Parkside Dr just north of Lake Shore
    – two on Lake Shore Blvd westbound – on the north side between Colborne Lodge Dr and Windermere Ave

  4. This is so absolutely disgusting. Those who let this happen should be ashamed.

    (And who would believe that they needed that many different signs for set dressing? They would have just had one and moved it around!)

  5. The is a bit over-the-top in its criticism of the Film & Television Office. They’re usually pressured to be as accommodating as possible, because everyone assumes making it hard to get a filming permit would devastate the local film industry.

    How about criticizing Audi for obtaining a permit under false pretenses? Like most press releases, the Audi one linked above includes contact info for their PR manager.

  6. 416 406 2400 ext 226 – this is the number for Bill Jones from SBC Events who seem to have coordinated this advert invasion (as listed on the permit).

    Feel free to call and complain – I did. This is completely unacceptable.

  7. I think they look pretty sharp. Why do people get so worked up…?

  8. From Councillor Gord Perks:

    It has come to my attention that advertising from “Audi”, in the form of two T’s on top of concrete blocks, has been placed inside High Park.

    While I am aware that this park is not in my Ward, I wish to stress my disapproval of any type of advertising in the City’s green spaces. I believe that there is a bylaw in place restricting the use of parks to advertise, and I would like to see these structures removed as soon as possible.

    Please be advised that I have copied Councillor Saundercook in this email, and I have referred concerns regarding this issue to his office.

    Thank you for your attention to this matter.


    Gord Perks
    City Councillor
    Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park

    PS: I sent [an email] to the General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation. I understand from Councillor Saundercook’s office that parks bylaw from Ward 13 are currently investigating this matter.

  9. Mark> cant we have some place on earth where there are no ads?

  10. Mark ^^ We get worked up when a company lies to the City about its intentions, and then brags about it in its media release.

    Secondly, our parks are not allowed to have ads in them.

    Thirdly, parks are a respite from the city. It cheapens our green spaces to no end.

    As designer, I will agree they look sharp. But that’s beside the point right now. The discussion in centred on how commercial interests show little respect for city bylaws and the needs of its citizens.

  11. What is this? Lack of respect, good manners, judgement, tact, taste… It’s crass and desperate. Who thought of this? They ought to fess up and present themselves for a good public tar and feathering–in 50 different locations. Either that or three days in the stocks (which don’t look much different from their “T”s). Neighbourhood school children will be provided with baskets soft, rotting fruit…

  12. These are great and an excellet, inovative campaign. Keneth Cole is legendary for his use of “Kenneth Cole Productions Inc.” to break into NY Fashion Week when he couldn’t get a tent in Bryant Park. He had trailers in the street beside the Park to do his fashion show.

    Advertising is part of the vibrancy of the city. If Maoists like you were in charge we’d only have exhortations from our “betters” about the message of the day. North Korea is a disgusting place and I have no desire for Toronto to look anything like that.

    Toronto needs MORE signs. We need more tall buildings, more offices, more condos, more people.

    For a group supposedly committed to urban life, you’re awfully antagonistic to every element of urbanity that isn’t bike couriering!

  13. The issue has been resolved! Apparently the message got through loud and clear. I’ve heard from the Director of Communications / Marketing & PR at Audi Canada, who assured me that the “movement schedule of the TT sculptures has them only in private locations from the end of today forward”. He still maintained that the permits were “for the purpose of photographing / filming the TT sculptures in unique settings specific to Toronto”, even though their press release makes it clear that the sculptures ARE the marketing material…

  14. Free Speech >>

    Obviously, you haven’t read through our site much to know we support more condos, more people and a vibrant city life. But outdoor ads do not mae a city vibrant — *people* make it vibrant.

    You think breaking city bylaws = innovation.
    Leaving green spaces free of advertising = Maoism.
    Not being brave enough to use your own name = free speech.

    Keep it up.

  15. Since they lied to the city to get those permits then I assume they are illegal. If they are illegal then it should be ok to “modify” them to look more artistic or to “modify” them to the point where they are trash.

    Just a suggestion…

    If I cheated city hall to get a permit to do something illegal wouldn’t I get charged? So why isn’t City Hall charging Audi?

    Too bad, I really like their cars, but after this I will definitely not purchase one (not that I could afford it).

  16. In response to complaints that Toronto is being too tight-ass about advertising and how it’s the life blood of the city and other BS, the basic issue here is that the permit to place these signs on public property was obtained under false pretenses. Period.

    That tells me how reputable Audi and their advertising agencies are.

    What would they say if I as a transit advocate started to drop posters for the TTC on their front lawns? What would they do if I “tagged” their sculptures, or even better, added the letter “C” at the end?

    They would howl! They would demand that I cease and desist! Lawyers would grow fat writing me threatening letters!

    To Audi, Lowe Roche and Maveric PR: The streets and parks are mine, not yours. There are plenty of legal ways to advertise yourself — use them.

  17. The free speech guy doesn’t even have the courage to put up his name.

    It is the few people like that who make a vibrant city like Toronto seem like a cheap whore, the few that ruin everything for the majority.

  18. Free Speech> We also advocate a return agrarian principals that we’re tentatively calling the “Great Leap Forward”. What other myths can I sell you, since you seem into fiction?

    Anyone who pays attention to this debate knows you aren’t. The Kenneth Cole Fashion Week stuff/stunts are a different thing, similar to stunts that are pulled during TIFF here in Toronto — some people may not like them, some people do, most probably don’t care. This is not the same thing.

    Nobody argues here for less people, less buildings. We are for less fiction however.
    This particular Maoist actually thinks the Audi TT is a hot car, in that guilty-pleasure/unpractical car sort of way. It looks like a smooth steel pill, and they look nice on the street — maybe like Mark enjoyed the design of these “T’s.” But good design isn’t the issue here, comrade.

  19. The free speech guy doesn’t even have the courage to put up his name.

    It is the few people like that who make a vibrant city like Toronto seem like a cheap whore, the few that ruin everything for the majority.

    By the way, I personally am not against advertising. I am against advertising that is always on your face with no imagination and incapable of sending any message. I am opposed to advertising which is nothing but visual pollution. It just happens that most advertising IS visual pollution because advertisers have no imagination or creativity so they assume big and ugly will make people want to buy crap.

  20. More from political staff at City Hall:

    the Film office requested the TT “sculptures” be removed by the applicant. [Staff] told me that they have all been removed from city property as of this afternoon.

  21. I saw three up in the Don Valley area just an hour ago… not gone yet, no.

  22. Hey free speech dude,

    You seem to have an interesting definition of “free speech” in your head. Real freedom of speech doesn’t have a price tag. Dundas Square is exactly the same model of top-down maoist crap that you dislike.

    If you have millions of dollars, you can buy a billboard in our “public square”.

    But if you’re just an ordinary boring citizen then you can get arrested for even chalking on the ground. Sounds like North Korea to me.

    Your confusion arises from your misconception that billboards are a form of public expression. Private companies are not citizens. Giving a voice to those who already have the loudest voice, is an odd recipe for “vibrancy”.

    You’re right that a vibrant city would have more signs. But they would be signs in different languages, there would be political content, controversial content, queer content, and images of people that truly represent our city: different skin colours, religions, disabilities, seniors, etc.

    Currently we have the opposite. All of our third party signage is just mindless crap, all in english, filled with youthful looking, able bodied, western-dressed, straight, smiling models.

    You call that vibrant? Maybe compared to a brick wall. But I can imagine so much more….

  23. Tanja, were the TT’s you saw on public property? Audi’s not stopping the campaign, but the City has made it clear that the permits to place them on PUBLIC propery have been removed. I assume those on private property will remain.

  24. The worst part of this whole rogue advertising scheme is that it works. The word “Audi” appears 17 times on this page alone. Oops – 18 times now. It’s totally shameful but the conniving people that put this together are likely without shame. So much for ethics. So much for the law.

  25. carlos,

    i haven’t got into the details but it sounds somewhat legit. i guess no one has ever bent the city permits when renovating a house?

  26. Oh, they’ll still be on private property after today. Which is to say that they’ll still get to advertise to those vacating the city for the long weekend.

    But the signs will still be illegal, as they have neither permits nor variances.

  27. matt – i hear you, but those things were the only thing in those parks the last couple days….


    The Audi Canada campaign that broke yesterday was a multi touch point campaign including the temporary placement of large TT structures you’ve seen across the city for a day’s duration in each location. This effort is limited in duration to three days in total (May 16 – May 18) and involves the movement of these sculptures to various locations. Please be assured that Audi Canada along with its production partner paid for and received city permits or the private owner’s permission for all of the locations being used for the purpose of photographing / filming the TT sculptures in unique settings specific to Toronto. Given your concerns, I am pleased to tell you that the movement schedule of the TT sculptures has them only in private locations from the end of today forward.

    Again, thank you for letting us know your thoughts.


    Doug Clark
    Director of Communications / Marketing & PR

  29. From my email to Rhona at Film Toronto…..

    “If they don’t air a commercial with these things in them then they and their agency should be banned from further permits in punishment. This kind of stuff make our industry look bad.”

    By the way….I think somebody called me a Maoist! That doesnt happy every day, or ever really.

  30. Ok, let’s face it. The car company (I don’t want to name the brand to make Jerrold happy) is not targeting people like us. They are targeting the Bay Street crowd who can afford their cars or don’t care enough about the environment to buy their cars in the first place. They really don’t give a crap about what we think of them. So I say somebody should do something interesting with those illegal signs. Putting a big C in front would be cool, or make them into bench parks, they are all white, so that would make them perfect targets for graffiti artists.

  31. Carlos> The “people like us” generalization doesn’t work though. People on bay street subscribe to Spacing and read this blog. People who own cars do the same. People with cars can be just as upset about this as those who bike.

  32. I’m sure we’ve all struggled with the issue Jerrold mentioned; is this thread just one more ad for Audi? In a way yes, but in a more important way, I think someone considering an Audi or a BMW might stumble on this discussion and have one more micro-fact to help them make their decision. But as irritated as I am with this campaign, I’d still like an original, convertable Audi TT…

    More importantly, though, is the impact this would have on the smaller companies involved… Maybe someone renewing their PR relationship from Habitat for Humanity Canada, or the Toronto Humane Society will have this make a greater impact on their decision to work with Maverick PR, for instance…


    Thank you for your email about the “renegade” Audi advertising.

    Councillor Vaughan is aware of this situation and our office has been following up with City staff to ensure quick removal and enforcement action is taken.

    City staff have advised our office that this Audi promotion in City parks is not a promotion or permit approved by PF&R. Parks By-law and Municipal Licensing and Standards staff are working to have the ads removed.

    Since our office first reported the ads yesterday, City staff are continuing to discover that there are a number of
    Audi logos appearing in other locations in the City.

    City staff are also working to identify which advertising agency is running the campaign for Audi in order to put a stop to the illegal placement.

    Please be assured that Audi has not received permission from PF&R to place the logos in City parks. City by-laws specifically prohibit any third-party advertising in City parks.

    Thank you again contacting us about these illegal signs and please feel free to contact us again if we can be of further assistance.

    All the best,

    Ange Kinnear
    Executive Assistant
    Toronto City Councillor Adam Vaughan

  34. “City by-laws specifically prohibit any third-party advertising in City parks.”

    Except for Astral’s pillars, of course, which were actually an initiative of PF&R.


    Thank you for your email. The Audi TT signs were not undertaken with the permission of Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff. The placement of these images was done under the auspices of the Film and Television Office to permit the filming of a television commercial. Once becoming
    aware of the presence, number and impact of these images, Parks, Forestry and Recreation requested that the Film and Television Office have them removed immediately from City of Toronto parks. If you have any further questions or concerns on this issue, please contact Rhonda Silverstone, Manager, Film and Television Office

    Sincerely, Brenda Librecz
    General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation

  36. “The worst part of this whole rogue advertising scheme is that it works. The word “Audi” appears 17 times on this page alone.”

    Jerrold >> That’s why I opted not to cover this for Torontoist and you opted not to cover this for BlogTO. But I think the Spacing Wire is different… People here are, I think, predisposed to resenting corporate intrusions into public space and as such are much more likely to believe that this ad campaign reflects negatively on the brand. That is, when a brand is mentioned here it’s not merely being propagated but rather is being presented to an audience that looks at in a critical context.

    A post on Torontoist, on the other hand, would be giving the PR company exactly what they want. I’m interested to see how the Star handles this.

  37. Then again, there are only a total of 40 of these things, and they were only supposed to be up for three days.

    I wonder what people are going to say about the new “info pillars” when they find out that all 120 will be in place for 20 years?

  38. Who wants to bet that “Free Speech” is posting from an IP that belongs to Audi Canada or its agency?

    As for Doug Clark’s e-mail, it can be condensed down to this: “We lied on our application and were caught, so now we’re moving them.”

  39. An email from Blackett to Audi has been circulated in news rooms and I like this quote from it: “What is worse is that Audi and co. do not see the irony of advertising in parks — everything Audi does as a car manufacturer is pushing us towards the ultimate destruction of our green spaces.”

  40. I’m happy to see that so many people cared to comment on this thread. I think this kind of behaviour by the marketing firm is despicable.

    I can imagine most people in this city would disagree with me, but there is a real problem with advertising in Toronto. The intrusions of these ads are more pervasive every day. I am very happy for groups like who agree with me.

    Here I am rambling like a codger and I’m no even 30. 😛

  41. The first of these I saw were along the Lakeshore near Parkside–at first I thought it was some temp artwork a la the airport stuff on 401 W of Renforth; but then I glimpsed stuff on the sides, I thought said “Audi” and an url or something. And beyond the “who approved this?” questioning, I figured then: gee, if this was meant to be advertising, that’s an inept location/position, moving traffic can barely see what it’s supposed to represent. (Later on, I saw another one inside the lobby of 1 Adelaide, which confirmed etc etc.)

    Nevertheless, it made me think of a little devil’s-advocate something: that if (if! if!) advertising on public/municipal property is allowable or desirable at all, the Sunnyside stretch of Lakeshore might not be a half-bad place–from Audi-esque sculptures to Burma-Shave type signs, it could “work” there. (And there’s the nearby precedent of the slope signage along the rail ROW beneath King.) However, I’m stopping short of advocating anything other than the devil.

    Oh, and what’s the matter with the communist world? “Free Speech” ought to get into the charms of Ostalgie; maybe then he’d be more sanguine;-)

  42. Those look pretty cool. If there hadn’t been any text on those, one might’ve mistaken them for modern ‘art’.

  43. SPQR >> I agree — without the logo they *could be* cool art. I think that’s the problem. If if was done to stimulate thought and bring about a discussion, we’d be all over it. But it is so disappointing when it turns out to be trying to sell us something. Almost every part of our lives involves us being advertised to — parks are part of the respite from hectic city life.

  44. Hey …put Audi “cool art” in your backyard and leave Sunntside alone! : )

  45. This reminds me of a campaign I once heard about in the Netherlands – a supposed ‘art competition’ produced a ‘winning’ sculpture in a particular shape. Copies of the sculpture (about a dozen, I think) were erected by the private ‘art foundation’ along various high-traffic motorways.

    After folks had got used to them for about a week, they were repainted overnight – into a new corporate logo being launched that day. What do you know, it’s that same funny shape! Of course the ‘competition’, ‘foundation’, and ‘artist’ were all a front to set it up.

    Crazy stuff.

  46. It would be nice to be able to do something/go somewhere where there isn’t a sign stuck in front of your face.

    Some points about this problem :

    1) As for Audi’s campaign, there doesn’t sound like there is even an admission of error on their part. A “cute” attempt to put advertising where it doesn’t belong, it worked for a while but, “hey, now we’re just moving on, as planned”.

    2) Is there any punishment/fine (that matters) to Audi/their advertising agency ?

    Or is the city just going to turn a blind eye and continue doing business as usual ?

    3) Will we see some other similar attempts in the future, now that Audi has broken new ground in getting ads where they don’t belong ? The city may have closed this loophole/backdoor, but how long before someone else comes up with another ?

  47. >> scratch tt on the next audi you see

    normally i wouldn’t advocate this…

    but trash that signage!

    better yet, maybe someone should sculpt it into something new and interesting (assuming, of course, the material is sculpt-able).

    i’d be over there with a chisel in no time…

  48. A big thank you goes out to Rami Tabello for keeping our streets safe again.

  49. I suggest sending a letter/email to Audi Canada asking them to compensate the citizens of Toronto for advertising in public spaces.

  50. How would they like it if someone put fight global warming stickers on their showroom windows?

  51. I love it!
    these TT sculptures arent hurting anyone…it refreshing to see new ways of advertising instead of print. put on in my front lawn please!
    i cant beleive all the crying I read on this page…focus on something else more productive than trying to shut down some briliant advertising.