Tim Hortons Brings Cultural Warmth to a Winter Tale of Snowpeople

GUT takes its message outside

In Canada and other chilly geographies, making snowmen and snowwomen is a time-honored tradition that stretches back for generations and crosses cultural lines. With that in mind, Toronto-based restaurant chain Tim Hortons asked Canadians to share ideas for snowpeople that reflect their unique history, heritage and culture.

Creative shop GUT and Steam Films director Goh Iromoto packed 21 such notions into the sweet :60 below. It shows diverse snowpeople representing different ethnicities and beliefs, along with the folks who created them:

Tim Hortons | Snowpeople

The spot closes with the line: "We're all made of the same snow."

According to GUT executive creative directors Juan Javier Peña Plaza and Ricardo Casal: "The idea came from our Canadian ACDs Matthew Kenney and Frederick Nduna, who were thinking about how Canadians take great pride in celebrating their unique cultures and heritage. They had a thought about how that could be extended into the holidays, and specifically, the holiday tradition of building a snowman. And once they investigated further, they found real stories and images shared by real Canadians."

"Using snowpeople perfectly encapsulates the shared values of diversity, tolerance and inclusion Canada is known and celebrated for," they add. "It's also an icon from the holidays that could be reinvented to teach a powerful lesson. Canada is also known for its snow and cold weather, so we knew it would connect with Canadians, and stand out for a global audience, who often hear about a snowman, but not a snowperson."

On social, the team asked folks to submit pictures of snowpeople they had made in previous years, or drawings of a snowperson that reflected their true spirit. 

"We invited some of the families to build their snowperson live for the commercial, and that's why we got such authentic performances from the kids—they were actually playing and having fun," the ECDs say. "Highlighting the current state of the world wasn't the intention going in. What we set out to do was simply share the best of Canada. And if it's a message that connects with the world at such a tumultuous time, then that's just gravy."

As for the, um, whiteness of snow itself, the ECDs note that "snow doesn't discriminate. It hits all parts of Canada at some point or the other every winter. And just like citizenship, snow unites Canadians. It has nothing to do with color. In this case, it's the symbol of the nation. It's also a blank canvas that invites and encourages everyone, no matter what their background, to make it their own."

Plus, building snowfolk is a cherished tradition that harkens back to pre-Covid times. And we could all use a big, frosty dose of normal in these strange, scary days.

In addition to TV, the film will appear on various digital platforms, and GUT will edit behind-the-scenes footage into additions videos soon.

You can learn about the individuals and families who inspired the spot here. Tim Hortons also supplied these highlights:

● The Harrow family from Kleinburg made a Jamaican-inspired snowperson, dressing it with items like snow locs, a beaded necklace, flip-flops and a pepper nose.

● The Monague family from Christian Island built a snowperson using items from Indigenous people, such as beads and eagle feathers, the colors of the medicine wheel and a dreamcatcher.

● The Azmat family from Pickering created a snowperson dressed in a dupatta to honor their Pakistani and Indian heritage.

● The Kaiser family from Thornhill designed a snowperson representing a mom in a wheelchair who participates in various activities with her daughter, such as pulling her along in a sled.

● Kristen Kownak, from Iqaluit, made a snowperson using a traditional Inuit amauti to carry a baby in a pouch. The large hood on the back is used to shelter both the carrier and baby from bad weather. The mom's headpiece, a qaurutik, is worn by women for performances or as a sign of leadership.

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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