The nation’s 150th anniversary seems to have been one of the more challenging occasions for Corporate Canada to mark than usual.

“It seems like everyone is participating because they feel like they have to, but no one is really standing out or seems to know what to say,” Thom Antonio, senior creative director at Jackman Reinvents told BNN in an email.

“Everyone feels obligated to participate, but brands have been reluctant, or perhaps lazy to differentiate themselves in the marketplace or make Canada 150 really meaningful and sticky,” he said.

One of the difficulties of marking the anniversary is the fact that it’s a year-long event, which Antonio says runs the risk of diluting a brand’s message.

“It’s been a slow burn,” John Yorke, president of Rain43 told BNN in an interview, referring to companies like Tim Hortons, which began advertising for Canada 150 at the beginning of the year. 

If a brand is going to “rent the interest” of a cultural event, the campaign needs to match what the brand promise is all about, Bob Nunn, chief brand mechanic at The Marketing Garage said.

Below are a few of their choice campaigns that hit or missed the mark: 


Advertisers that nailed it

Roots – “Nice Campaign”


“It’s the best of all things that are out,” said Yorke. “It’s not just ‘Joe Canada’ and showing the victories, it’s showing the ups and downs.”

Parks Canada – Free Pass

Embedded Image

Parks Canada is celebrating Canada 150 by offering free park admissions for 2017, which scored big points with advertising consultants. “[This] is the smartest, most powerful marketing program of all,” said Nunn. He hailed the campaign as “visionary”, noting if you want Canadians to get out and explore Canada, offering free passes will have a long-lasting effect.

Antonio agreed in that Parks Canada “won” this year because the best form of advertising is immersing the consumer in the campaign itself.

Molson Canadian – “Fridges” 


“Talk about intersecting their brand,” Nunn said, “Canada’s in their name and this beautifully builds on their ‘I Am Canadian’ and ‘Fridges’ great ad legacy.”

Tim Hortons Canada – Roll Up The Rim

Embedded Image

“When you can tie the 150 into your own brand and promotions, that’s when it succeeds,” Yorke said. 


Advertisers that failed it

Tim Hortons U.S. – Poutine Donut

Embedded Image

“Tim Hortons in the U.S. is doing the worst job,” Yorke said, “it’s such a cliché and unfortunate that’s what the Americans think we would actually eat.”

Telus – “Million Hours of Giving”

Embedded Image

Nunn says Telus missed the mark with this one, saying the campaign doesn’t have much to do with Canada 150. “Sure there’s an attempted connection to ‘the future is friendly’ by giving a million hours to charity but that’s tenuous at best. Where are the beloved animals? This brand seems adrift,” he added. 

Canada’s Wonderland – “Celebration Canada 150” Facebook post

Embedded Image

While this is not a complete fail, Nunn says it’s not a winner either. “Engagement stats look good,” he said, “But it ends up in our fail column by not providing us with greater differentiation: Is it the best fireworks show? If so, why? It will likely be a success in spite of itself but the marketing could have been more.”