Throwaway Thursday

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (SILVER)

Client Credits: Ivanhoé Cambridge
Joanne Ross, Director, Regional Marketing (Central Region) - Ivanhoe Cambridge
Sandra Wainwright, Regional Marketing & Operations Coordinator (Central Region) - Ivanhoe Cambridg
Zeina Barghout, Director, Regional Marketing (Quebec Region) - Ivanhoe Cambridge
Marie-Pier Delisle, Regional Marketing & Operations Coordinator (Quebec Region) - Ivanhoe Cambridg

Agency Credits: john st.
Angus Tucker - Executive Creative Director - john st.
Stephen Jurisic - Executive Creative Director - john st.
Kurt Mills - Associate Creative Director/Writer -john st.
Kyle Lamb - Associate Creative Director/Art Director - john st.
Kohl Forsberg - Copywriter - john st.
Zack Vitiello - Art Director - john st.
Cas Binnington - Producer - john st.
Jen Shapiro - Producer - john st.
Account Manager - Lauren Aitchison - Account Executive - john st.
Laura Robbins - Planner - john st.

Total 1889 Words


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):November – December 2013
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: November 1, 2013
Base Period as a Benchmark: November – December 2012

a) Overall Assessment

Black Friday is famously known as the busiest (and craziest) shopping day of the year for Americans, luring consumers with deep discounts on high ticket items. Given the recent strength of the Canadian dollar and migration of many American retailers to Canada, the last 5 years have seen a shift to Black Friday sales north of the border [Footnote 1]. Marking the kick-off to the Holiday season, Black Friday awareness and interest for the occasion was high, with experts predicting that the weekend would soon surpass Boxing Day as the busiest shopping period of the year in Canada [Footnote 2]. Digital and social analytics further verified this, with trend reporting showing year-over-year increases in conversation around Black Friday since 2009 [Footnote 3].


Enter Ivanhoé Cambridge: a pre-eminent Canadian-based global property owner, manager, developer, and investor, focusing on high-quality shopping centres located in urban areas (i.e. Vaughan Mills, Dixie Outlet Mall, Mapleview, etc.). Beyond its strong Canada-wide presence, the company is also active elsewhere in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. After seeing sales spike with ad hoc Black Friday promotions in past years, the company decided one big idea leveraged across all properties was a powerful (and cost effective) way to create awareness and drive traffic. With 10% of surveyed Canadians reporting intentions to make a purchase Black Friday weekend and its major competitors poised for success with many promotions and extended hours offered, Ivanhoé Cambridge knew the stage was set for action [Footnotes 4 and 5].


But the company’s shopping centres were wary of the Black Friday 'reputation' and the negative media coverage surrounding it. So they thought, how can we drive sales while breaking through the Black Friday madness in a positive way? The answer: create 'Throwaway Thursday', the day before Black Friday when consumers make room (by donating items to a good cause) for all the great new stuff they could get at Ivanhoé Cambridge malls on Black Friday.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Ivanhoé Cambridge had aggressive goals for Black Friday in 2013, considering the anticipated competitive landscape. Their goal was to drive traffic across its malls over the previous year (with a 7% average traffic increase vs. 2012 established as the shopping centre benchmark).


Retailer sales were another important metric, as each property aimed for a year-over-year increase against the 2012 Black Friday shopping period. However, perhaps most lofty was the company's goal of generating positive publicity for its shopping centres during an increasingly noisy (not to mention controversial) consumer holiday, to create awareness of their Black Friday sales and reinforce Ivanhoé Cambridge's leadership position in the marketplace. 

c) Annual Media Budget
$100,000 - $200,000

d) Geographic Area
National (cross-Canada)

Footnote 1: Krystal Yee, “Black Friday: Canadian Retailers Fight Back,” 2012, Toronto Star, 30 July 2014

Footnote 2: Alison Martel, “Canadian retailers plan Black Friday sales as competition with U.S. firms heats up,” 2012, Financial Post, 30 July 2014

Footnote 3: Google Analytics, August 2013

Footnote 4: David Friend, “Black Friday in Canada: Canadian Stores Will Hold Sales to Compete with American Retailers,” 2012, Huffington Post, 30 July 2014

Footnote 5: Canadian Press, “Ontario malls to extend hours to compete with U.S. Black Friday,” 2012, Financial Post, 30 July 2014

a) Analysis and Insight

Because of its position as a national shopping centre chain, Throwaway Thursday had to have mass appeal, while still zeroing in on its core target: the savvy, deal-seeking Canadian woman. These women, aged 25-54, are impulsive, indulgent, and can't resist a good bargain. They prefer malls for their convenience and variety, and when it comes to fashion, they prefer quantity over quality.


But there’s a prevailing sentiment of de-cluttering and simplification. “If something comes in, something must go out,” as one respondent told us. So, the best way to create need, was to create space in the closet! The company's shopping centres had the perfect formula to bring out her inner bargainista, while the charitable spin of Throwaway Thursday helped her to feel good about indulging in plenty of new finds. While other competitors were consistently attacked for encouraging bad behaviour, Ivanhoé Cambridge allowed its consumers to feel proud for participating in Black Friday by supporting a good cause, while simultaneously helping them expand their closets.

b) Communication Strategy

The Ivanhoé Cambridge portfolio tends to be centred around smaller shopping centres with discount or outlet retail offerings, making it an attractive consideration for its target bargain-hunting female. These women thrive off the excitement of a “fast fix”, and feel a sense of urgency to compete for the best deals. Black Friday is the perfect time for them to clear out their closets to make room for all of their great new purchases.


However, from a category perspective, Black Friday tends to bring out the “crazy” in consumers, with violent retail-based news stories coming to light every year. Its biggest Canadian competitors appeared not to differ strategically from its US retail counterparts, focusing on extended hours and door-crasher prizing, alongside other major retailers contributing to the chaos with ‘one hour only’ in-stock product guarantees. When considering this, along with the target’s shopping tendencies given above, there was a fear that Ivanhoé Cambridge’s Black Friday promotions had the potential to create mayhem, leading to negative media coverage.


From these founding insights came the dually powerful idea of Throwaway Thursday, adding a CSR (donation) element to turn brash materialism into acts of kindness. The campaign was able to do double duty in reminding consumers of the sale event going on (in asking them to clear their closets), while also cementing Ivanhoé Cambridge as a ‘do-gooder’ amongst the Black Friday madness. This cross-section of insights proved to be completely unique for both the brand and the category, allowing an intense consumer event to become an opportunity to expose the brand’s focus on corporate social responsibility.

a) Media Used

Media executions in market spanned both owned and paid channels, throughout the November/early December 2013 period that the campaign was in market.


Owned channels that were employed included:

-       Unique guerilla communication (i.e. donation bags, stickers, staff t-shirts)

-       In-mall signage (i.e. decals, t-stand posters, king-size posters)

-       Digital properties (i.e. respective shopping centre websites and e-newsletters)

-       Social channels (i.e. shopping centre social pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram)


Paid media varied depending on the shopping centre, but most commonly included:

-       Paid digital banners

-       Print (i.e. local newspapers)

-       Radio in local municipal markets

-       OOH (i.e. TSAs)

b) Creative Discussion

The idea behind Throwaway Thursday was to have consumers clean out their closets to make room for new purchases they would make on Black Friday. A differentiating, traffic-driving component of the promotion was the donation mechanic (via the Canadian Diabetes Association), which incentivized participating Throwaway Thursday consumers to come to the mall on Black Friday. Information cards and donation kits were handed out in shopping centres across the country prior to Black Friday, each containing a branded donation bag, and stickers to place on larger items. Staff wore 'Throwaway Thursday' t-shirts to serve as walking billboards in the weeks leading up to the big day. All items were branded with the unique Throwaway Thursday logo and design system to ensure consistency and to create an ownable asset for Ivanhoé Cambridge. This helped the brand to become synonymous with both charitable giving and great deals.


The campaign was further communicated through the malls' owned channels (in-mall signage, mall websites, e-newsletters, and social spaces), as well as through paid communication, such as radio, OOH, print, and standard banners geo-targeted to the properties' local markets. PR further generated by the media helped in forming lineups around the country, and it quickly became clear that the Throwaway Thursday spirit was catching on, especially after almost 10 tonnes of clothing were donated to the Canadian Diabetes Association. Retailers were thrilled; it created a never-seen-before spike in traffic and sales during a peak sales period, all in the name of a good cause.

c) Media Discussion

Throwaway Thursday’s true greatness shone through in its ability to stand on its own without a major media investment. Using a per-mall budget of approximately half of the average shopping centre’s 2012 spend, the brand was able to accomplish widespread reach, along with countless earned impressions through positive publicity generated in national and regional media outlets. While its media spend accounted for only a small digital buy and locally run OOH, print and radio, the malls were also able to leverage their owned properties (i.e. websites, e-newsletters, signage, staff t-shirts) to drive the message home. Custom-made donation kits containing information cards, branded bags, and stickers were also given out in malls in the weeks leading up to the big day to build awareness for the campaign. The results spoke volumes to the success of this initiative, with record-breaking totals set for donations to the Canadian Diabetes Association and mall traffic doubling vs. Black Friday 2012.

a) Sales/Share Results

Throwaway Thursday delivered on Ivanhoé Cambridge's key objective for Black Friday in spades, hitting a 23% average traffic increase among its 24 participating shopping centres nationally vs. the 7% target objective. With final creative spend per mall representing only about one-half of what each shopping centre had historically budgeted for Black Friday, the ROI for the campaign was clear.


Retailer feedback was an important KPI of success, and the promotion had the centres' tenants exploding with positive comments, with some reporting their highest sales in 40 years, and others reporting almost doubling opening day sales vs. prior years.


The publicity and consumer participation was unprecedented for Ivanhoé Cambridge. The promotion became a news story, picked up by numerous national publications (i.e., Montreal Gazette, etc.) and regional media outlets (i.e. Brantford Expositor,, Belleville Intelligencer, Windsor Starm, etc.), and the lineups around the corners of every mall on Black Friday spoke volumes to the heavy awareness generated for the campaign. Consumer comments also came flooding in; one shopper reported that it was “wonderful to support local charities”, while another stated that after staying in Canada for Black Friday for the first time, “being able to give back while also taking advantage of great deals just shows why it’s great to be Canadian”.


While not a KPI for Ivanhoé Cambridge, the donations for its partner, the Canadian Diabetes Association, which managed the drop-offs of Ivanhoé consumers' 'throwaways', was also a huge success. The organization reported a record total donated of 19,321 lbs. of clothing in one day (vs. its previous record from another company of 5,000 lbs. over a 9-day campaign). 

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

As it was the only key difference between Black Friday 2012 and 2013, Throwaway Thursday made a substantial impact on traffic, retailer participation in Black Friday programming, and on the local community, driving an average traffic spike per mall of 23%. The organization reported a record total, donating 19,321 lbs. of clothing in one day to the Canadian Diabetes Association.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

  1. The total spend of <$500,000 nationally delivered massively for Ivanhoé Cambridge, during a sales period that represents approximately 18% of Canadian retail sales – a drop in the bucket [Footnote 1].
  2. Furthermore, individual malls spent just over 50% of their historical budgeted amounts for Black Friday.


Price discounting is a common feature for retailers during the Black Friday sales period in order to remain competitive with deeper discounts being offered across the US border. However, Ivanhoé Cambridge’s Black Friday promotions were on par with other Canadian retail chains, with the majority offering extended mall hours and discounts at the retail level [Footnote 2].

Distribution Changes:


Unusual Promotional Activity:

Ivanhoé Cambridge’s portfolio of shopping centres offered price promotions that were equivalent to many of its competitors, and actually faced a disadvantage at the outset due to its lack of brand equity in the company name (vs. well-known competitors like Cadillac Fairview, which frequently advertised as a collective). Because of this, malls were required to run more grassroots campaigns at a local level in support of their regional communities vs. using a national media buy to support their initiatives. 

Other Potential Causes:


Footnote 1: Lisa Wright, “November is the new December in Canadian retail,” 2014, Toronto Star, 30 July 2014

Footnote 2: Canadian Press, “Ontario malls to extend hours to compete with U.S. Black Friday,” 2012, Financial Post, 30 July 2014