Ontario expands “Support Local” Campaign after complaints

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A new marketing campaign by the Ontario government, designed to “show your love for local by exploring new and creative ways to reconnect with the unique small businesses and places that make the province’s communities special”, has run into some rather angry sectors of the community. Local print media, such as the Times, found it rather annoying that Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, was claiming to “recognize the importance of supporting Ontario’s entrepreneurs during this very difficult period”, while, at the same time, bypassing local newspapers. The plan set forth by Minister McLeod envisaged the “new campaign will launch on TV, radio, digital and social media starting mid-December and run until mid-January 2021. Advertisements will focus on the close-knit relationship between local businesses and the communities they serve.

The cry went up from community newspapers and larger print media sources: “What about us? Of course, everyone in print media recognises the urgent need for such a marketing campaign. Lisa McLeod cannot be faulted for her diagnosis of the crisis which affects so many small, local businesses in a time of Covid.

“COVID-19 has been a challenge for many local businesses that make up the fabric of our communities – we’ve all seen the anxiety in their eyes when we visit our favourite restaurant or artisan shop. We need local, as much as local needs us,” said Minister MacLeod. “That’s why this new marketing campaign is so important – it reminds us that there is an incredible community right outside our doorstep that we can safely explore and reconnect with. Clearly, we need to support our locally owned businesses now, when they need us the most.”

As a member of the Ontario Community Newspaper Association [OCNA], the Times joined with our colleagues to point out to the Minister that she had neglected a major platform through which she could carry on the campaign. There was also a sense of irony that she had expected newspapers to print her press release about the campaign free of charge, when she was ignoring the same effective means of carrying on the campaign. After hearing the complaints, her officials contacted OCNA to say that they would be in touch this week with a “constructive solution”. It is hoped that, by the time you read this, something has been done to fix the problem.

Community newspapers have been at the forefront of promoting and supporting local businesses right through this pandemic, and understand only too well the challenges faced in trying to survive in this unique time of crisis. Encouraging people to shop locally and support local restaurants, stores and other retail outlets is what is at the core of this new “show your love for local” campaign.

“Local community businesses are the heart of what makes a destination special,” said Lisa LaVecchia, President and CEO, Destination Ontario. “We recognize these businesses need Ontarians’ support right now to ensure the charm and wonderful experiences of these communities are there to welcome visitors back long after the pandemic.”

For more information on the campaign, or Destination Ontario’s efforts to promote tourism in Ontario, please visit their website: https://www.tourismpartners.com/en/home.

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