Dig These Graves
A new campaign urges Torontonians to support local businesses to keep neighbourhoods alive
June 16, 2021
“The end is near,” the favourite phrase of those who deem sandwich boards fashionable and call soapboxes hotspots. These days, however, the phrase is also bringing a modicum of hope as it signals a return some semblance of “normal,” a loaded word itself.
For an alarming number of Toronto businesses the end can’t come soon enough that is if they can make it. Toronto has had some of the strictest and longest running lockdowns in North America, which has resulted in mounting debts and mass closures. A new campaign, created by Toronto agency Berners Bowie Lee for the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), “Buy Toronto Time” is the shop’s largest integrated campaign since launching in September 2020.
“Buy Toronto Time” is designed to do just that, buy the city’s small businesses time to recover by encouraging Torontonians to shop local and support the cornerstones of their neighbourhoods. To do this they have enlisted a different kind of stone all together, one that represents the grave situations many business are facing.
Custom tombstone posters, which include the business name and opening date with the second date left blank and uncertain, have appeared more than 400 businesses with more to come. Over 100 billboards compliment the posters across the city, and an Instagram account where business owner can share their stories.
“Most people in the city want to help local businesses,” says Michael Murray, founding partner, creative, Berners Bowie Lee. “When a place we love closes we feel a sense of sadness and we often regret that we didn’t do more to help. ‘Buy Toronto Time’ is a campaign that triggers this sense of loss to nudge people in neighbourhoods across Toronto into action.
The initiative is encouraging more business owners to participate and receive their own custom posters by going to buytorontotime.com.
“‘Buy Toronto Time’ is about the livelihood or death of an individual business in our city’s neighbourhoods,” says John Kiru, Executive Director, Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas. “With a possible end to the pandemic in sight, Torontonians may think that means all businesses will live on. But the fact is they need support now more than ever.”