A Return to Marketing Toronto to Visitors from Ottawa and Montréal

At Destination Toronto, we live and breathe promoting this incredible city to locals and visitors, alike. And now, after 18 months, we’re thrilled to once again be promoting Toronto in two of our key source visitor markets - Ottawa and Montréal. 

An unprecedented time calls for an unprecedented campaign. For the first time, Destination Toronto has teamed up with Ottawa Tourism and Tourisme Montréal for a new campaign - City Friends with Benefits.  

Launching today, City Friends With Benefits invites locals from each city to explore the three-city corridor when they’re ready to travel again. And there couldn’t be a more important time to do it. The invitation to visit comes as the tourism industry and urban destinations begin to recover after nearly two years of impact from COVID restrictions.

We want to let you in on all the secrets about the campaign. Here are some burning questions and answers that give you all the gossip about our new City Friends with Benefits


What’s City Friends With Benefits all about?

City Friends with Benefits is an invitation for travellers from each city to escape their home town and visit the other cities. The campaign is a playful and cheeky take on the notion of “friends with benefits,” purposely light-hearted in contrast to the heavy news environment we have all been under at a time when we were also isolated and forced to stay at home. The campaign was not built to promote all of the ‘stuff’ each city has to offer a visitor but rather to capture the personality of each city and use that to get consumers excited about urban travel again and creating buzz around their love for the three cities.  

What’s behind the campaign? 

Anchoring the campaign is the release of a new song that we know you’ll recognize, called The City Friends with Benefits Song (Escape). The track is a re-write and reworking of the iconic and undeniably catchy “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” to entice residents to plan their next city escape. The tongue-in-cheek single comes with a newly-produced video that captures the spirit, vibe and personality of each city while simultaneously being self-aware of the playful relationship between the destinations, and being stuck at home during the pandemic.   

What’s behind the idea?

City Friends with Benefits creates a playful threesome relationship between the cities. It’s lighthearted and flirty, and the fun tone contrasts the heavy news cycle everyone has been living in.

The three destinations acquired rights to rework the famous “Pina Colada song” by Rupert Holmes, specifically chosen because it’s iconic, gets stuck in your head (sorry, not sorry), and has an escape invitation naturally built into the lyrics. Beyond that, this is a song that finds its way into pop culture time and time again, and with good reason. When we want an escape, this song immediately comes to mind. And we all know a thing or two about wanting to escape over the past 18 months.

The song was recorded in both English and French with a Canadian crew and Canadian artists. 

Who did we work with to develop the creative?

City Friends with Benefits is a true collaborative effort between the three Destination Marketing Organizations and our agency partners. The three cities worked with Destination Toronto’s strategic creative agency Bensimon Byrne (under the direction of Chief Creative Officer David Rosenberg) to develop the campaign concept, rewrite the lyrics and produce the music video. 

Tourisme Montréal’s media agency Touché developed a paid media strategy that modeled best practices and leveraged tactics that a music label or artist would implement for a single release. 

And Pirate Toronto produced the new single and the music video for our viewing pleasure, was directed by Peter Huang. 

The single also features an array of Canadian talent that could sing, act and authentically speak to loving the city they were representing in the video. In many ways, they were our performing ambassadors.


  • Toronto (English) – Aaron Maxwell Williams
  • Toronto (French) – Vladimir Alexis
  • Ottawa (English) – Kimberly-Ann Truong
  • Ottawa (French) – Oliver Beauchemin
  • Montreal (English and French) – Jessica Leveillee-Lemay

How is City Friends with Benefits being marketed?

A unique campaign needs to be marketed uniquely. City Friends with Benefits marketing efforts include media channels such as Instagram, Facebook, digital and out-of-home advertising, but it also includes Spotify, TikTok, radio and YouTube - forming a unique go-to-market strategy for a tourism campaign, relying on music industry marketing best practices for a track and music video launch.

Why now?

This is the first return-to-visitor market campaign for Destination Toronto since the start of the pandemic. Up until now, we’ve been laser focused on supporting the community, and promoting Toronto locally and hyper-locally. With many restrictions lifted and people beginning to travel again, now is the time to encourage two nearby markets to safely experience Toronto again.  And following this campaign we will be launching “Never Have I Ever” in both Ottawa and Montreal to highlight and share all of the things one can do in Toronto right now.

Why Ottawa and Montreal?

Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal are all seasoned drive and short-haul fly markets for each other. Emerging from the pandemic, we know that the drive and nearby fly markets will return first. And this campaign aims to take advantage of that. Research also shows that many city dwellers are looking for more rural travel. To counter that, we wanted to build a campaign that revives the excitement of travelling to cities once again. If you are going to cheat on Toronto these are the cities to do it with right now. The same could be said for Ottawa and Montreal. 

How can Toronto’s tourism and hospitality take part?

Like all good gossip, it only works if you share it. 

Watch the new video, sing along, and of course - spread the word! Share the video with your friends, family and network. All you need to do is hit the ‘share’ button on our YouTube page and follow the option you want or follow our social channels and reshare the videos when we post about the program.