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Canadian Tire shoots its Christmas campaign in Toronto in July of 2019.tommy keith/The Globe and Mail

The snow is snowing. The wind is blowing. But there’s no real winter in this storm. The “snow” is foam spewing from a hose, and the wind is from a six-foot fan. The temperature is over 30 C, the air is soupy, and the ground is covered in grass. Nearby, kids attending summer camp in this Toronto park take cover in the shade.

The illusion is for a Canadian Tire Christmas TV spot. A stinking-hot day is an odd time for a toboggan ride. But plenty of holiday shoots take place at this time of year, because advertisers don’t finalize their plans early enough to shoot during the preceding winter. “We have created winter outdoors with snow dressing and spraying the trees, or we’ve created [computer-animated] icebergs and cabins,” says Adam Ball, group account director at Taxi, the ad agency behind this commercial.

Foam and white blankets that look like duvet innards are spread on the ground. They provide texture that will help the sub-zero scene completed in post-production with computer animation look more real. As elaborate as the setup seems, making the spot in winter wouldn’t be much less complicated.

“The issue with Canadian winter is, it’s unpredictable,” says Canadian Tire’s VP of marketing, Eva Salem. She recalls a shoot in North Bay that was meant to show trucks with winter tires on a frozen lake. When temperatures unexpectedly rose, they had to rewrite the script on the spot.

So, it makes sense to pack two actors wearing coats and mittens onto a sled in July—along with one astonishingly co-operative border collie. Until a summer rainstorm rolls through, anyway.

  • 111 square metres: Size of a screen hoisted by crane to block out the summer sun and provide a more wintry light
  • 4: Number of treats trainers give the dog per take as rewards
  • 25: Takes needed for the toboggan-ride scene
  • 5–6 seconds: Estimated length of the scene, depending on editing