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An occasionally cringe-inducing look at Toronto’s past tourism-boosting videos

Tourism Toronto’s new promotional campaign, “The Views are Different Here,” has the city buzzing. A video ad, released online over the weekend (and embedded above), presents us as a diverse, welcoming place. Nods to Drake, Jose Bautista and gay marriage, coupled with a danceable soundtrack, drive home the message: Toronto is a place where you can have fun and find acceptance, even if your race, nationality or sexual orientation put you somewhere on Donald Trump’s enemies list.

The video is a bit of an outlier in the history of Toronto tourism-boosting campaigns, most of which have tried to lure visitors and inculcate civic pride by hokier means. Here’s a look at a few promotional videos from past years. Some of them are pretty dreadful.

Eastern Airlines promotional film, mid-1960s

This promotional film, produced for now-defunct Eastern Airlines, highlights some of the massive changes that were happening in Toronto in the mid-1960s. There are brief glimpses of then-new landmarks like the Toronto-Dominion Centre, Yorkdale, and city hall. There are also a few cameos by long-lost fixtures like the Coffee Mill and Aeroquay One. The smooth-jazz soundtrack is like a velour tracksuit for your ears.

“People City”

Best remembered as the sign-on/sign-off sequence for CityTV during the 1970s, this clip, set to Tommy Ambrose and Gary Gray’s “People City”, depicted a friendly vision of Toronto, imbued with the “people power” that guided Toronto’s activists and politicians of the era. Ambrose and Gray’s crooner-style ballad hasn’t aged well, but the video’s views of old-school Ontario Place and other waterfront locations make it worth a watch.

“Toronto: Discover the Feeling”

When “Toronto: Discover the Feeling” was unveiled as Metro Toronto’s new tourism slogan in 1984, suburban politicians freaked out. “I’ve never felt more insulted in my life,” North York mayor Mel Lastman declared. The problem? Lastman and company thought the slogan and its campaign placed too much emphasis on Toronto, and not enough on their outer fiefdoms. (For his part, Metro chairman Paul Godfrey preferred one of the rejected options: “You Ought to See Us Now.”) The campaign was eventually approved, and it enjoyed a five-year run. “Discover the Feeling” ads featured cameos from musicians Tony Bennett, Chuck Mangione and Reba McEntire. An audio backdrop of upbeat synthesizer-pop makes Toronto sound like a great place to live out some John Hughes–style teenage fantasies.

“Toronto: You Belong Here”

Produced to help the city recover from the SARS outbreak, “Toronto: You Belong Here” was rolled out for Mother’s Day 2003. “The simple slogan shows the world that Torontonians are the warmest, most welcoming people on Earth,” boasted Mel Lastman, who by this point had become megacity mayor and was no longer as concerned about North York getting its due. The video showcases a lot more of the city than ads from previous decades, with shots of Kensington Market and the Scarborough Bluffs. This may also be the first tourism video ever to make Toronto look like a city with nonwhite people in it. (There was even a separate series of ads produced just for the Chinese media, featuring notables from the local Chinese community.)

“Toronto Unlimited”

One of the least awe-inspiring branding campaigns the city ever undertook, “Toronto Unlimited,” which launched in 2005, was plagued by one misstep after another. “It began innocuously enough with a bad logo coupled to a meaningless phrase,” wrote Globe and Mail city columnist John Barber, “then snowballed into an epic boondoggle.” Some ads promoted events after they had already occurred. The one embedded above somehow spends three whole minutes talking about Toronto without showing viewers a single image of the city.

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