A Rickard’s-sponsored promotion in Air Canada’s custom publication enRoute fell flat for one Ottawa eatery.
As first reported in the Ottawa Citizen, Union Local 613 asked to be removed from a list of more than 100 of Canada’s favourite drinking spots. The list is published on enRoute’s new SayCheers.ca website and is part of a competition that invites Canadians to vote for their favourite bar.
The promotion was developed in partnership with Molson Coors-owned Rickard’s and executed by Spafax Canada (publisher of enRoute).
“First, we weren’t asked… [Secondly], we’re a craft brew beer shop,” Union co-owner Ivan Gedz told Marketing. “The majority of everything we have in here is craft brews. We have no interest in being affiliated with Molson Coors. We don’t sell any of their products. Why would we lend our brand and be affiliated with the contest itself that they’re using as advertising?”
Gedz said he was willing to entertain being included on the list if enRoute donated $1,000 to the Ottawa Food Bank (similar to a donation made by Richcraft Homes in exchange for including Union in a brochure for a nearby condo development).
“[We thought], if we’re going to be part of this marketing push, we can sleep at night if we’re throwing some cake back into the community,” said Gedz. EnRoute declined, saying it donates to charity in other ways, so Gedz asked that Union be removed from the list.
He said enRoute’s response was “lightening fast” – the restaurant was taken off within a day.
It’s not quite journalism because it’s really just an ad campaign, but these lines are being blurred all the time
Ivan Gedz, Union Local 613
Ilana Weitzman, editor-in-chief of enRoute, said a request for removal such as this is extremely rare. While the “Favourite Bars” listing is new, the magazine has been running “Canada’s Best New Restaurants” for years, which Weitzman said has “had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the culinary industry,” she said. “We have fantastic relationships with chefs and we’ve been able to do some incredible content around that program.”
Union’s objection raises an interesting point for marketers in the branded content space: if you’re involving other brands without permission, be prepared for pushback.
“There will always be outliers, and it’s important that you’re able to accommodate them, so you need to be mindful of that when you’re building a program,” said Nino Di Cara, executive vice-president of content marketing at Spafax. “As a program manager, you have a responsibility to the brands that you’re representing to be highly responsive and attuned to [any] sensitivities.”
Last year, Union Local 613 was included in enRoute’s annual “Canada’s Best New Restaurants” list, which first made Gedz question being affiliated with enRoute and its sponsors.
“I think what they’re doing is completely advertorial,” said Gedz. “It’s not quite journalism because it’s really just an ad campaign, but these lines are being blurred all the time.”