The Situation:The global pandemic has had a tremendous impact on small businesses around the world, and Canada is no exception. Small businesses, which represent 97.9% of Canadian businesses, are constantly worried about closing permanently and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are doing all they can to support them with limited resources. Given this grim reality, Roncesvalles BIA needed to make a statement and impact without the luxury of being able to afford any of the high costs of media

The Solution: While 95% of Canadians believe that supporting small businesses are key to keeping our economy healthy and 82% are worried that their favourite local businesses will close down, Amazon boxes still pile up alongside people’s recycling bins. But when we spoke to residents, most of them were heartbroken over their favourite stores closing down. We realized that the absence of the stores had a stronger sense of urgency than the idea of stores closing down. We decided to shock people by forcing them to experience the harsh reality that could happen to all of Roncesvalles.

On Nov. 24, the second day of the new lockdown, “Roncy” residents woke up to the main street store windows covered in craft paper, with “For Lease” signs. Working together, the agency, BIA and small business owners created an arresting display that forced shoppers to viscerally experience the reality of the pandemic.

At noon, in a coordinated event, the store owners ripped off the paper to reveal the core campaign message underneath: to resist the lure of Amazon and support independent retailers. They also had federal and provincial members of Parliament attend and speak to the media.
Instagram, including IG stories, was the primary social media channel used to drive awareness and spark conversations.

The Result: The reaction was incredible. While a few media outlets were invited to the 12 pm event, by 1pm every news agency in the city covered the story and turned it into National Story because it was such an impactful display. This media impact kept going for 72 hours, with more news teams arriving to cover the event.

Forty four press outlets ran stories, leading to nearly 255 million impressions and heightened awareness of just how high the stakes are for small businesses. While approximately 20% of the media coverage was organized, the rest happened organically due to the power of our event’s impact. The campaign also went onto win three bronze marketing awards including: AToMiC Collaboration, AToMiC Engagement, and Best Experiential Engagement.