A Q&A with Destination Toronto’s Vice President of Global Marketing about the new U.S. market campaign

As visitation starts to rebound, Destination Toronto is marketing in the U.S. for the first time since the pandemic began with a vibrant new campaign that showcases our diverse destination through the eyes of passionate Torontonians.

Terminal editor Kathy Motton spoke with Vice President of Global Marketing, Paula Port, to learn more about the campaign, You Gotta See What We See.

Congratulations on the new campaign launch You Gotta See What We See (YGS), what’s different about this campaign?

Our team is extremely excited to bring this program to market. “You Gotta See What We See” is our first U.S.-targeted campaign since 2019 so we have a lot to talk about. 

As the world reopens, we see that travellers are eager to break out of the same old routine and experience new things again. We want to fuel that curiosity - to inspire and invite them to explore, discover, try new flavours, meet new faces.

This campaign is very much driven through the lens of storytelling which is much different than a traditional advertising approach. 

It’s a really cool approach, as it adds depth to the invitation to come to our City. How did this campaign evolve through the creative process?

This campaign leverages the work that we have been doing over the last several years through our Ambassador Program in which we engage with local creators and influencers to provide our audiences with a local perspective or “insider” POV. You’ll recognize this group as the faces and voices on our social platforms. This perspective is extremely important to travellers today who, as we know, get much of their information from social media and trust influencers, user-generated content, and peer recommendations (often over brands). 

With YGS, we’ve extended that concept by engaging with some very enthusiastic, passionate Torontonians with stories we believe will resonate with our US audiences specifically. These are the type of people who can’t wait to share their favourite spots, events, and are eager to invite others to experience their favourite parts of the city.

Given where we are at in tourism recovery, what are the objectives of this campaign?

This is our first U.S.-targeted campaign since 2019 therefore our primary objectives are to drive awareness and deepen engagement. We’re seeking to bring new audiences into our environments - consuming more content on our content hub, through our social platforms, and e-newsletters. Fueling their curiosity, and moving from inspiration to information (trip-planning).

Who are the Toronto Insiders who will share their experiences of Toronto?

We have 5 Toronto insiders participating in this program sharing stories that cover the breadth and depth of the destination including: culinary, entertainment, culture, sports and Indigenous experiences. It’s core to our storytelling that we reflect the diversity of people and experiences that make this city so very special.

Simu Liu is a Canadian actor and writer known for portraying Shang-Chi in the 2021 Marvel Cinematic Universe film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. He was cast in his first main role as Jung Kim in the CBC Television sitcom Kim's Convenience.

Nick Liu is the critically-acclaimed chef and owner of DaiLo, a Toronto restaurant specializing in "New Asian" cuisine that has been named on multiple local and national lists of top restaurants in Toronto, including the Top 100 Best Restaurants in Canada. 

Mariah Amber is the multi-hyphenate in-arena host for the Toronto Raptors, choreographer and former NBA dance captain, who is also a dedicated sports and fitness enthusiast using her platform to uplift and encourage female athletes and young women in the sports industry through her mentorship work.

Santee Siouxx is a Dakhota and Odawa content creator and model, who uses her platform to share content about Indigenous history, Indigenous representation, cultural appropriation and sustainable brands.

Sonia Mangat is a host and reporter on CTV's ETalk and CP24 Breakfast Television and is an active contributor to community events and initiatives, such as Room to Read, a non-profit organization which focuses on building schools and libraries for girls in developing countries.

All of these Insiders are passionate about this city and it shows. 

Getting into the details, who is the target audience for this campaign and how will we reach them?

Our media strategy takes a three-phased approach. We launched with a :30 promotional spot that introduces the idea of YGS. That is followed by a :15 teaser spot that serves to tease the series. There are different versions of that teaser, subtly nuanced in content to appeal to different audience segments. And, finally we have our ‘story’ videos. These are targeted based on behaviour and interests, leveraging the audience engagement from the earlier phases.

Geographically, we are targeting NYC, San Francisco/ San Jose, Chicago, and Washington D.C. The markets have been chosen not only based on consumer audience profile and propensity to travel to Toronto but also in consideration of overlapping business event (meetings & event) audiences. 

The campaign runs through to the end of October.

If we made a You Gotta See What We See video sharing your Toronto, what things would you include?

Oh, I like this question! 

My YGS video would start early in the morning with a run along the waterfront, specifically Sugar Beach to Trillium Park, to show off some pretty stellar city views (you could walk it but there’s a lot I want to cover in this spot so I figure we should pick up the pace). 

Brunch is a must - it’s always a good idea but in Toronto, it’s an institution and I love that about this city. Next up will be a bit of montage: a Jays game (dome open), shopping on Queen West (guest appearance by my teenage daughter), and a stop at the Distillery District (I always walk there from Union because I love that section of Front Street). 

I’d do a segway tour around the Distillery (I haven’t done one before but it’s on my list) and drinks on the patio at El Catrin. The evening would include a stop at Casa Loma for the Symphony in the Gardens series, simply because it's stunning. And, we’d end the night with a walk through Terra Lumina at Toronto Zoo. I could go on, I would definitely need a multi-day shoot!

Any final thoughts to share?

I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise but convincing these insiders to participate in this campaign wasn’t hard. We have so many passionate Torontonians who are eager to share their Toronto stories and invite others to see it for themselves. 

After a few very difficult years, that response and that energy were so exhilarating to see again. I hope that you all feel that too as you engage in their stories. 

I wouldn’t be a marketer if I didn’t end with a good call-to-action. So, please share on your own platforms and websites, and help to amplify these stories. Also, stay tuned here for more ways to engage in the campaign this fall.