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A Tale of Two Commercials: Toys 'R Us vs. Canadian Tire

There has been a lot of talk recently about a new Toys 'R Us commercial.  Amongst people who advocate for "getting outside" the chatter has been very negative.... including my own comments.

Haven't seen the commercial yet?  Take a look:

As a career marketing and communications person, I tried to look at the commercial from the corporate perspective.  They are trying to sell their brand. They are trying to get people into their stores. They are trying to show that they have everything a kid could want to be happy. I get that.

But as an outdoors enthusiast and as a parent who has been trying to instill a love for being outside in my child since she was born a little over eight years ago, I simply can't make any excuses for this commercial.  

Let's keep it real - Emma isn't outside all the time. She can work her way around an iPad and You Tube with ease.  She has lots of toys that aren't meant for outside play.  If I had a dollar for every "Monster High" doll accessory we've yelled at her asked her politely to pick up off the floor, I could BUY a toy store.

Would she freak out with happiness if a bus she was riding suddenly pulled up to a store with the promise of picking any toy she wants?

You bet she would.  But, I know it would be short-term high.   Because all the electronics and all of the toys get shoved aside by my girl pretty fast when there is an offer to play outside.

I take great pride in the fact that she ASKS to have a camping trip with a friend for her birthday celebration. I love that she would rather play at the park, or in our yard than inside. She is connected almost instinctively to the natural world in a way that other kids I know (who spend very little time outside) are not. She is fit and healthy and has achieved a confidence that I can directly attribute to being exposed to "getting outside".

As a marketing pro, I give this commercial an epic fail.  I feel that Toys 'R Us is deliberately diminishing the benefits of being outside by painting an outdoors excursion as boring and something to dread rather than embrace.

Childhood obesity and all of its associated health problems is identified as a growing, frightening reality across North America.  And the disconnect from the natural environment being experienced by so much of our society actually has a a name - Natural Deficit Disorder.

So, why? Why is Toys 'R Us - a leader in toy retail - perpetuating the idea that experiencing the outdoors is negative and something that kids don't want to do?  Of all the "surprise" scenarios they could have picked, why did they choose this one?

Now, let's take a look at another commercial that was released in August this year.

For my non-Canadian friends out there, Canadian Tire is a retail icon here in Canada.   Since 1922,  it has been one of Canada’s most recognized brands.  The stores are found in communities coast to coast, offering automotive and hardware products, sporting goods, clothes for work or play, gas bars, and just about anything  needed for a home -inside and out. (Paraphrased from the Canadian Tire website.)

I think it's pretty safe to say that any Canadian who has spent some time outside has owned at least one piece of gear that came from a Canadian Tire store.  Maybe it was a pair of skates. Or maybe it was a bike, baseball glove, hockey stick or sleeping bag.  

What is so awesome about the Canadian Tire commercial is that this retail giant gets it.  They get that play is important.  And they get that "play" is about more than mass-produced toys you can find on a retailer's shelves.  Did you notice how much of this commercial takes place outside? 

"…For a country without strong children cannot stay strong." 

This is the message we need to embrace and repeat.   

As the commercial says:

"Canadian Tire 
is rallying this country’s most influential partners to bring back play…
And with it …
All the confidence, 
creativity, and strength 
 that serves to remind:
We all play for Canada."

Thank you, Canadian Tire, for launching this very important anthem and saying so well what needs to be said.  I am happy to help you take up the challenge to Bring Back Play.

What are your thoughts on these two, very different commercials? Let me know in the comment section below, or on the Sometimes Eventful Facebook Page here: Sometimes Eventful on Facebook

Side Note:  Canadian Tire provides a brief explanation of why they launched this campaign on their website. You can also read the full script for the commercial.  Check it out here:

1 comment:

  1. As a parent of 2 young girls who have embraced nature, I saw this commercial and was disgusted. I will never bring my kids to a ToysRus again. Period. I simply can't believe this campaign was green-lighted.


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