Bikes, Coffee, and Killer Ideas

With some chalk spray, laser-cut stencils, and a lot of strategic thought, bike riders in Toronto were cleverly steered right to the front door of Fix Coffee + Bikes, a one-stop bike and coffee shop.

Cory Eisentraut, VP and Creative Director at Havas Canada, shares how his team’s novel idea solved a unique problem.

Before this campaign, what was the biggest challenge for Fix Coffee + Bikes?

Awareness. Fred Sztabinski, the owner of Fix, had an amazing concept for a shop, but unfortunately, it’s a bit tucked away off the main shopping district. So we needed to find a way to get cyclists to learn about the shop and make the effort to find it.

So who’s the target audience?

Cyclists who love coffee. Fix is the only bike shop in Toronto that also has an amazing in-house coffee shop, so it is the perfect convergence of these two vibrant cultures.

How might this audience be different from those listening to a TV spot or seeing a traditional billboard ad?

Given the size of the shop and their modest budget, TV, radio, or traditional out-of-home were never really an option. But in truth, I think using bike lanes to reach our target was actually a benefit. These handmade ads really fit the mindset of both the shop and its ideal customer. We wanted these ads to feel personalized and grassroots. They have an authenticity that I think true cyclists could feel.

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How did this campaign reach that audience?

I think our two secret weapons in this campaign were surprise and charm. No cyclist would expect to see a fun message chalked into their bike lane. And then to find some interesting ways of interacting with the space, like turning the wheels on the bike symbol into coffee cups, we were able to create awareness while also bringing smiles to their faces.

What was the insight behind the campaign?

Cyclists really have their own culture, and they have their own space in the city. We knew if we could find a way to inject our message into that space, it wouldn’t be ignored.

Why is this type of creative more effective than, say, a traditional billboard ad?

Cyclists aren’t focused on traditional billboards as they make their way through the city. Not only are those types of ads expensive, but they are just wallpaper to a busy cyclist.

How did you land on this specific concept?

The two main drivers for this campaign were target and budget. We needed to find a way to reach cyclists as cost-efficiently as possible. This idea allowed Fix to create an enormous number of bike lane billboards, and their costs were essentially the laser-cut stencils and the spray chalk.

What were the results?

The campaign is still too fresh to have concrete results, but Fred has reported that his traffic and sales have been increasing throughout the summer, so we feel like the idea is helping to get the word out.

What made this project different?

Well, no one on the team had ever worked in chalk before. This was our first time having to figure out spray patterns and stencil dimensions. But that’s what we love here at our Village. When we don’t know how to do something, we just roll up our sleeves and figure it out. The alley behind our office had more than its share of practice stencils. But after a few spectacular failures, we really got the hang of it.

Any surprises?

When you create a campaign in chalk, you get very interested in the weather. Every time a heavy rain was forecast, we would all watch to see if our billboards would get washed away and need to be reapplied. Thankfully, this wasn’t a particularly wet summer in Toronto.

Tell us something about this campaign that most people don’t know?

The client ultimately said yes to it because he was impressed that we had done so much experimentation. If we had just presented him with a deck or a digital mock-up, I think he would have had other reservations. But when he saw how it looked in actual practice, in our alley, he was convinced it was something worth trying.

Any other future plans for this client or campaign?

With the wetter and colder weather coming, we will be postponing the bike lane billboards until spring. But we do have another Fix campaign idea that we will be working on with Fred and his team through the colder months. His mechanics had a bit of downtime last year, so we want to use that time for something special. It should be ready to talk about in the new year. We’re pretty excited about it.