TORONTO—A Niagara Parks ad campaign that portrays Toronto as crime-ridden and inhospitable has raised the ire of some Torontonians, who are used to their city being seen as safe and clean.
Among the videos, which contrast Toronto and Niagara, are scenes in which people in Toronto are stuck in traffic, robbed, or unable to practice Yoga due to incessant noise, and an invasive bicyclist.
One video shows a Toronto man running for a streetcar car only to be left behind, while another shows a man squishing grapes with his feet in his apartment in an effort to make wine. In another scene, a person is covered in water splashed from a puddle as a car drives by.
Such scenes are followed by their counterpoint in Niagara: running in a grassy park, sipping wine in a vineyard, meditating beside an idyllic vista, or getting splashed by spray during a trip down a river.
The videos were produced by the Niagara Parks Commission, an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism that maintains 4,250 acres of parkland along the Niagara River. The region is known for its wine production and includes Canada’s iconic Niagara Falls.
The campaign began a month ago, but only recently attracted controversy as some started alleging the ads were an attack on Toronto’s image.
Acting Mayor Joe Pantalone, a board member of Tourism Toronto, described the ads as “an unnecessary cheap shot.”
Reporters have also panned the ads, including Anthony Reinhart at the Globe and Mail who writes that they equate Toronto with a “crime-ridden, graffiti-laden, gridlocked urban prison.”
Jayme Poisson at the Toronto Star said the campaign attacks Toronto but does little to represent Niagara, and then attacks the tourist area’s wax museum and 24-hour fast food outlets.
In reaction to the outrage, the Niagara Parks Commission has pulled two of the most detested ads. Tony Baldinelli, communications manager for the commission, said the ads were never meant to hurt anyone and were tested on focus groups in Toronto.
“Our efforts are not to offend; it is to entice that market from Toronto.”
Baldinelli said the campaign has been successful, crediting it for playing a role in a 43 percent rise in visits from Toronto. When asked if he thought the extra coverage relating to the controversy might help raise the profile of the region, he said they would rather have people focus on the merits of the campaign on its own.
With the most offensive ads pulled, he hopes people will be more focused on Niagara’s ability to “rejuvenate and excite” rather than any offense given in the process.