Over the course 2017, the city of Montreal held hundreds of events tied to its 375th anniversary. Postmedia was tasked with developing a campaign to bring attention to as many of these events as possible. Going in, we knew we wouldn’t get to everything, so we developed a strategy that could cover a lot of ground in just a few steps.

Because the client, the Society for the Celebrations of Montreal’s 375th Anniversary, was vying for a native campaign in the Montreal Gazette, we knew we had to speak to Montrealers specifically. What do they care about? What gets them out of the house? How do they expect the Gazette to cover Montreal’s 375th anniversary?

To highlight as many events as possible and keep the energy going all year long, the Gazette created an online 375th anniversary hub, a native ad campaign, and a series of 19 neighbourhood tour maps.
To highlight as many events as possible and keep the energy going all year long, the Gazette created an online 375th anniversary hub, a native ad campaign, and a series of 19 neighbourhood tour maps.

After looking at the Society’s extensive calendar, we narrowed our content strategy down to three areas of focus: the winter events, the city’s design-oriented identity, and the 19 neighbourhood tours.

To keep the conversation going all year, we decided to create a “375 Montreal” hub on the Gazette’s Web site where we hosted any article — editorial or native — related to the anniversary. We added one historical story from our archives per day. Using articles, videos, and infographics, the entire native series did quite well, often exceeding industry benchmarks.

A highlight of the campaign was a series of 19 maps we created for neighbourhood tours. They garnered performance results that were among our personal best, and I believe that is because they were created by Montrealers for Montrealers.

I’d wanted to find a project that lent itself to maps for a long time, and the neighbourhood tours were a perfect fit. For each of the 19 maps, we took readers on a small tour of an area in one of Montreal’s 19 boroughs. We’d focus on the spot where the neighbourhood tour in that borough took place. For example, if the tour was based around a particular park, the map would highlight restaurants, shops, or other places around that park.

To help with the project, we gathered talents of writer Ursula Leonowicz and designer Susan Ferguson, both native Montrealers. Ursula had a knack for finding unusual sites that surprised readers, while Susan traveled to each site to take photos. We also worked closely with the client, who would often consult with city historians about the highlighted sites.

For each map, we included a small calendar of tour activities. Each tour lasted an entire weekend. This allowed us to seamlessly combine two agendas: the reader’s and the client’s.

The maps worked on a lot of fronts:

  • Some readers got in touch with us to acquire print copies of certain maps because they were collecting them.
  • On social media, the maps consistently surpassed our expectations in terms of engagement, helping us reach over 110,000 page views. Each map garnered hundreds of positive reactions, from comments to likes and shares.
  • The maps helped the client achieve their goals, with 104,205 people attending the neighbourhood tours.

Remembering that these were ads, it is humbling to see how invested the readers were. At the same time, it wasn’t altogether surprising. Montrealers enjoy talking about the neighbourhoods they love, either because they live there, work there, hang out there, or have friends or family there. That connection is intimate.

I think our strategy worked because we care about these neighbourhoods as much as they do. The maps were ads, but they were also authentic — and that’s what made our readers respond so positively.