Canadian Tire - Unexpected Gifts

Long Term Success (SILVER)

Client Credits: Canadian Tire Retail
TJ Flood, SVP Marketing
Susan O’Brian, VP Marketing
Eva Salem, AVP Marketing
Natalya Lukie, Elayne Lyons, Marketing Manager
Natalia Kardys, Marsha Robertson, Marketing Specialist

Agency Credits: TAXI
Daniel Sheppard, Adam and Dave, Jun Diaz, Directors
Tom Greco, Irfan Khan, Creative Directors
Darren Clarke, Executive Creative Director
Renee Bhavnani, Tom Greco, Writers
Michael Siegers, Colin Brown, Art Directors
Megan Flett, Sarah Moen, Producers
Shannon Barnes, Andrew Graham, Cindy Marshall, Line Producers
Agatha Wronecka, Lesley Rivard, Group Account Directors
Stephanie Santiago, Account Directors
Amy Greenspoon, Patti Ann Cochren, Account Supervisors
Kelly Mark, Casey Mendoza, Eric Fitzpatrick, Account Managers


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):November – December 2012, 2013, and 2014
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: November – December 2012, 2013, and 2014
Base Period as a Benchmark: November – December 2011

a) Overall Assessment

Christmas is without doubt, the most important time for retailers in Canada. It’s a time when wish lists and gift lists are drawn up by kids of all ages. For a retailer who has as large a product offering as Canadian Tire, you would assume that they’d occupy a good portion of these lists.

There’s just one problem. Only 30% of Canadians say “buying gifts” is their primary reason for shopping at Canadian Tire. Sales during this pivotal time were being hampered by this reputation.

As “Canada’s Store”, Canadian Tire needed a new way to spin Christmas gifting to get Canadians to also think of it as “Canada’s Christmas Store”.

In 2012 we found that way and launched a new Christmas campaign that changed perceptions and hit home at the cash register. The campaign has been so successful that we’ve been using it since, building on learnings each year, and we are continually achieving big results for Canadian Tire and changing the way people shop the season.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Change consumer perceptions that Canadian Tire is the place to buy Christmas gifts.

c) Annual Media Budget
$3 - $4 million

d) Geographic Area

a) Analysis and Insight

While Canadian Tire plays across a truly diverse range of categories, there are three categories where they’ve always maintained a low profile; electronics, apparel and children’s toys. For 10 months of the year this isn’t an issue, but for Christmas it’s a different story because these are the categories that, although ordinary and expected, dominate Christmas gifts. This reality negatively impacts Canadian’s perceptions about Canadian Tire as a retailer that carries ‘new and different’ products at this crucial time of year. 

But there is another reality too; with over 90,000 SKUs in a host of categories ranging from sports to housewares to automotive to tools, Canadian Tire is sure to have something that’s perfect for everyone on your list. You just never thought about it.

And there the idea was spawned: position Canadian Tire as the store to get that special someone something different. Something totally out of the blue that would be perfect.

In Christmas 2012 we challenged Canadians to forget the ordinary, and come to Canada’s Christmas Store to discover their Unexpected Gifts.

b) Communication Strategy

To communicate the range of Unexpected Gifts each year we selected between 8-10 unexpected products for TV that included everything from fun gifts for foodies (a one of a kind Pizza BBQ) to never before seen gifts for kids (a backyard hockey rink in a box). The carefully curated list offered products that were always slightly familiar (a pizza oven), but had a uniqueness to them that piqued interest (a pizza oven that was propane powered and portable). These products represented the tip of the iceberg for what we were selling and the story was continued online and in flyer with even more exciting products.

a) Media Used

• 15s TV

• Selected YouTube pre-roll

• Social Media postings


• In-store POP

• Canadian Tire flyer and ‘Destination Guide’ promotional space

b) Creative Discussion

With a collection of products being advertised on TV via 15 second commercials, it was crucial that we didn’t overwhelm consumers with disparate messages. We needed all communication to feel connected but still have an individual identity.

That’s why when we launched we created a consistent campaign look that featured our beloved Canadian Tire spokesperson Gary sitting by a roaring fire, offering Unexpected Gift advice to individuals struggling to find the perfect gift. This look was continued each year to drive even more familiarity and breakthrough.


These three elements allowed our creative to feel connected and not get lost in the noise that is Christmas advertising, and consumers took notice of our unique approach to our TV advertising:


Also, featuring Gary led to instant brand link, his signature humour drove breakthrough, and our quintessentially Christmas setting further connected Canadian Tire to holiday gifting.

Since TV could only do so much, we extended the campaign into the famous weekly Canadian Tire flyer where we advertised even more unexpected gifts perfect for everyone in your life. To make sure these ads connected to the look of the campaign we used creative elements established for the in-store POP.


With all of the activity spread across a diverse multitude of touch points we felt pretty confident that our unexpected gifts campaign would start to get Canadians to think of Canadian Tire as Canada’s Christmas Store.  And they were. However, to really make sure, we took it an extra step in 2014 by turning a busy Canadian Tire store in downtown Toronto into a gingerbread house that lit up the neighbourhood.

Talk about unexpected.


c) Media Discussion

In addition to the consistent look established via the creative, crucial to our success each year was our go to market strategy. Specifically, how we aired the spots.

Through tracking in year one, we realized that the campaign idea performed best when consumers saw more than one product in quick succession. Once this lesson was learned we ensured we always had commercials airing together in the same commercial cluster pairs.

The healthy combination of TV, digital, social media, in-store and flyer to promote our products each year, was the perfect mix of mass mediums to allow the campaign to connect to a wide audience, while the more tactical mediums grabbed our target’s attention when they were in the ready-to-buy moment.

a) Sales/Share Results

Unexpected Gifts has been a resounding success.

At the store, our Unexpected Gifts were not only flying off the shelves, they were driving fineline category sales to levels previously unheard of. Additionally, each year, we generated an increase over the prior year’s sales. A true testament to a successful campaign built on a solid foundation and refined to maximize the impact year after year. 

To prove the sales increase we analysed 3 years of the campaign, 2012, 2013 and 2014, and compared them to a benchmark of 2011 where Unexpected Gifts didn’t exist.


As you can see, the campaign performance is exponentially improving year upon year.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

Christmas time is one of the most congested times of year in the retail media landscape, so getting noticed is no small feat. Our :15 formula anchored by our CT spokesman and engaging creative rewarded us with an increasing brand link ratio score, year over year. 


Additionally, branded recall was almost two times higher than norm, and prompted recall has also grown year over year to exceed norm.

Our go to market strategy was perfect and really helped change the way people thought about Canadian Tire as a gifting destination. IPSOS tracking proved that once the consumer saw 4 or more ads, not only were they enjoying it more, they were much more likely to agree that “Canadian Tire sells new and different products”, and, they were more interested in shopping with us.






It’s clear to see that Canadians are starting to believe that Canadian Tire is Canada’s Christmas Store.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

Campaigns spending levels were consistent year to year.


No unusual pricing to be noted. 

Distribution Changes:

Campaigns were on par with any / all efforts by Canadian Tire.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

None to be noted.

Other Potential Causes:

No other potential causes to be noted.