Niagara ads should be a wakeup call for Toronto
The recent controversy surrounding the Niagara Parks Commission ad campaign promoting Niagara by exploiting the negative stereotypes of big city’s like Toronto has struck a nerve with some Toronto residents and politicians.
This overblown reaction by Toronto is based on a deep-rooted insecurity and arrogance that highlights the need for Toronto to do more to promote itself within the GTA and neighbouring regions.
I was planning to write about the need for Toronto to do more to promote itself to the 905, but this recent controversy has added a new aspect to my position.
The depiction of “the big city”, (which is perceived by most to bear a striking resemblance to Toronto) in the Niagara ad campaign is reasonable. Although the characterization of Toronto as crowded, dirty and unsafe is exaggerated, the ads do play into a stereotype that some GTA residents have of Toronto.
Let’s not forget that although Niagara is a friendly cousin of Toronto, it is a competitor when it comes to tourism. As such, this ad campaign is fair game in the battle to attain more tourist dollars. Tourism is a competitive industry by nature. You can either promote your city based on its strengths, or by exploiting another city’s weaknesses, however exaggerated that may be.
It is slightly amusing and somewhat ironic that the backlash from Toronto regarding the ads has actually helped Niagara tourism through additional earned media. It was a crafty decision on Niagara’s part to include this controversial slant to their ads because of the prolonged exposure that it is receiving from the media. And with some politicians wading into the issue, the results will be that much more lucrative for Niagara.
Toronto’s response to the Niagara ads should not be that of anger or offence. It should be a wakeup call that Toronto needs to do more to compete with Niagara and other regional municipalities that are fighting for increased tourism market share.
Toronto is a world-class city that should not be insecure about its strengths, neither should it take these strengths for granted. We have so many attractive features of this city that most would want to experience. We just need to start focusing more of our attention on promoting our strengths, as opposed to complaining about our perceived weaknesses.