Spotlight: Toronto

Melanie Rockliff, director of comms at Campbell Co. of Canada, sees smaller firms landing big clients in this entrepreneurially minded city.

Toronto is often called the New York City of the North. It is an apt comparison, says Melanie Rockliff, whose career spans 15 years in the metropolis, the last five as director of communications for Campbell Co. of Canada.

"It is the hub of finance and business – multinational offices tend to be headquartered here – but it is also a very cosmopolitan city," she explains.

The latter part of the year has seen Canada’s largest city host the Toronto International Film Festival, a key event not only for movie deal-making, but also for tourism. That was followed by the city’s semi-annual Fashion Week, this year branded World Master-Card Fashion Week featuring retailers including Target, which opened stores in Canada last year, and brands such as Joe Fresh.

A culturally diverse city, Rockliff adds that there are many high-profile cultural events with food as the star ingredient. The largest is Taste of the Danforth, a street festival of Greek culture that attracts 1.5 million attendees.

"These events create a lot of opportunities to connect with influencers in those cultural groups," she explains.

Rockliff characterizes the agency scene as dynamic. Multinationals including Edelman, Golin, and FleishmanHillard have significant operations, while US firms such as Kwittken have established a Toronto presence this year.

"We also have strong Canadian players – midsize firms and a host of boutiques," she adds.

Independents include seven-person Touchwood PR, which focuses on arts and entertainment, and Apex PR, a 25-person consumer and corporate PR firm with clients including UPS Canada and Walmart.

Before joining Campbell Canada in 2009, Rockliff worked at a number of midsize shops including consumer marketing and product PR firm, Palette Public Relations. She also operated her own independent consultancy for four years. 

"I was able to build up a very healthy business working with other agencies and directly with clients," Rockliff says. "There are opportunities for single consultants. I am also seeing a lot of big brands entrusting their PR to smaller firms," which she credits in part to entrepreneurially minded talent. 

Rockliff notes that strong PR grads are coming out of local institutions, particularly Humber College and Centennial College.

In terms of agency relationships, Campbell Canada works with Com.motion, the sister social media arm of Veritas, a Toronto-based PR firm.

The city has a celebrity chef culture as top Canadian broadcasters have adapted US hits including Chopped and Masterchef featuring Canadian chefs.

But by and large, Rockliff says, "there used to be a lot more food pages and media. It has become more challenging and competitive to get our story told." 

Fast Facts

1. With 2.8 million people, Toronto surpassed Chicago as North America’s fourth-largest city, behind Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles.

2. Toronto’s key industry sectors include business and professional services; design; academia (it is home to four universities, including the University of Toronto, below left); fashion and apparel; and film and TV (third-largest production center in North America).

3. Almost half of the population consider themselves a visible minority. South Asians, at 12%, are the largest minority group, followed by Chinese at 11.4%.

4. Businessman John Tory was elected as the new mayor of Toronto on October 27. He is set to take over from one of the city’s most divisive politicians, Rob Ford, who was caught smoking crack cocaine.

5. Global brands headquartered in the city include McCain Foods, TD Bank, and Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts Burger King said it will move ahead with its $12-billion merger with Tim Horton’s. The newly combined entity will be based in Oakville, a suburb just outside Toronto.

6. Toronto will host the 2015 Pan Am Games from July 10 to 26. CIBC, Atos, Chevrolet, Cisco, and Loblaw are sponsors. Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil is creative partner of the opening ceremony.

Reach Out

Canadian Public Relations Society
4195 Dundas Street West, Suite 340
Toronto, Ontario M8X 1Y4
Tel: (416) 239-7034

Toronto Star
1 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario M5E 1E6
Tel: (416) 869-4300

Ontario Chamber of Commerce
180 Dundas St. West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 0A1

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