Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail's marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.
It's not technically an ad for Tim Hortons, but it may as well be.
Over the weekend, a Toronto man named Jared Gaber posted a video online of his marriage proposal to girlfriend Stephanie Pasternak, done through a drive-through window at a North York Tim Hortons last Thursday.
The video, which required four cameras to shoot, includes plenty of Tim Hortons branding – complete with glamor shots of the doughnuts, a diamond ring nestled among them in their display case.
The video is so polished, it's hard to believe it is not a fiction concocted by the company. Marketers are vying to create more of what they call "content" – in other words, stuff you might actually want to watch – in addition to traditional advertising. It's seen as one of the only ways to get noticed in the great din of marketing messages that is the Internet.
This sugar-glazed love story would seem to fit right in; but Tim Hortons insists it's just a stroke of luck for them, not a planned marketing exercise.
A spokesperson for the company said its only involvement was accommodating the filming request at its North York location.
Once it was done, though, the company asked the groom-to-be for permission to post it on Twitter and Facebook.
"From there, it just exploded," Mr. Gaber said. "…I don't think the PR department of Tim Hortons knew this was coming down. But it took off. I'm sure it's been great for them."
Mr. Gaber is a marketing guy himself, working at food supplier Rich Products of Canada Ltd. While his company does business with Tim Hortons, he says there is no connection. A stop at the coffee chain is the one consistent element of his fiancée's morning routine, he said, and he wanted to be sure the surprise would work.
"If anyone's a doubter, the telltale sign that it was not done by Tim Hortons, is that in one of the B-roll shots it pans by the doughnuts and there's a few missing," he said. "As a marketing guy I can tell you, if it were an ad, it would be the most perfect doughnuts, dressed up to the nines, in perfect straight lines."
Like a true marketing junkie, however, Mr. Gaber insisted on a professional shoot. He asked a friend he's known since their summer camp days, who now runs a production company to film the whole thing. Big Ticket Productions does wedding videos, corporate videos, and yes, commercials.
"It's one of those weird things: oh, did we maybe go too far, that people don't actually believe that it's real?" said director and producer Jesse Cappe. "…But hopefully it worked out to benefit both parties."
The video received more than 2,400 "likes" on Tim Hortons Facebook page, and a bit of publicity for Big Ticket, too, thanks to the video credit that Tim Hortons included in their post. It has been viewed on YouTube more than 70,000 times.
"I knew I wanted to make a splash," Mr. Gaber said.