Nuit Blanche. Gay Pride. Margaret Atwood. The comedian behind "S–– Girls Say." Some people from advertising agency john st. want to remind everyone that these are part of Toronto, too.
Two art directors at the firm, Hannah Smit and Marie Richer, have created an online campaign called "More Than Ford" to spread a different message about the city than the one that has made the most headlines recently.
The idea came together lightning-fast – over lunch on Friday, the women were complaining about the news surrounding Mayor Rob Ford's admission that he has smoked crack. By Monday morning, with the help of others at the agency and other friends, they had put together a video celebrating Toronto, a website, and a Twitter campaign asking people to use the social network to talk about why they love Toronto using the hashtag #MoreThanFord.
"We were just chatting about how depressing it was that everyone was talking about the city in a negative light," Ms. Smit said. "We work in a communication industry, and we thought we could at the very least try to change the sentiment or shift the conversation."
The women spent two days asking everyone around them what they love about the city, and then scoured video sharing sites YouTube and Vimeo looking for footage that represented those examples. They then edited together a compilation, set to the song Live in this City by Toronto musicians Dragonette. (Every video sampled is credited and linked to in the description, and Ms. Smit says they have not had complaints from anyone asking not to be part of it.)
The website asks people to tweet things they love about Toronto, or to even allow the campaign access to their Twitter accounts to send out messages more widely. It also tracks which hashtag is winning, in terms of the amount of conversation on Twitter: #RobFord or #MoreThanFord. It's an imperfect measure of course, since many of the people talking about Ford are not on Twitter, or even on Twitter are using different hashtags such as #TOpoli or no hashtags at all. But it's not meant to be scientific: the message of the campaign is about starting a new conversation, Ms. Smit said.
"It's their initiative. We're just helping them push it," said john st. partner and executive creative director Stephen Jurisic. "We got a whole pile of people working on it … they've got a few young people involved who are just sick and tired of it."
Editor's Note: After this report was published, the "More Than Ford" campaign took down its video over copyright considerations.