Tim Hortons Stops Running Enbridge's Ads Following Public Backlash

Canadians want their corporate coffee to be energy-company-free, eh?

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Jun 4 2015, 7:30pm

"This is more than a cuppa joe. This is, truly, a cup of Canada."

So begins Enbridge's blog post announcing their (now) doomed ad campaign across 1,500 Tim Hortons outlets across Canada. Beginning last month, Enbridge's warmup to the vaunted "summer driving season" showed Tim Hortons' customers in-store TV ads with wholesome messages like "E = doggy smiles."

This car ride probably burned about 15,000 calories worth of gas, equivalent to 300 apple fritter timbits.

But this partnership was just not meant to be for the companies, as a whirlwind online petition just killed the campaign as Tim Hortons started telling individual Twitter users that they wouldn't be playing the ads after hearing customer feedback.

Enbridge's "Life Takes Energy" campaign goes back to last fall, but it appears that the Tim Hortons collaboration was the last straw for 27,000 petitioners, who took all of 24 hours to pressure Tim Hortons to kill the ads on their in-store TVs.

"Enbridge is now trying to leverage the trusted Timmies brand to sell their project—and this campaign shows that Canadians still aren't buying it," said Emma Pullman, a campaigner at petition site SumOfUs.

The company's ad foray into Tim Hortons locations makes sense from a reputational point of view. Oil pipelines, Enbridge's signature business, have been having a tough time in North America lately.

Despite the National Energy Board's blessing, Enbridge's Northern Gateway proposal to transport Alberta bitumen across thousands of kilometres of First Nations territories and sensitive BC ecosystems was in trouble even before Alberta's NDP Premier Rachel Notley threw cold water on the project.

Enbridge did see the controversial Northern Gateway project approved by the federal government last summer, but it came with 209 conditions and has had trouble winning support from citizens. Kitimat, BC, where the Northern Gateway would end up, voted against the project in a municipal plebiscite last year.

Enbridge is even getting sucked into Mike Duffy's growing unethical-dealings vortex, with reporters and prosecutors now drilling into the relationship between the troubled senator and the company.

In the US, Enbridge faces opposition to a project in Minnesota and settlement costs for embarrassing spills like the 2010 Kalamazoo, Michigan accident.

The company must certainly want to put a spill-proof lid on public opposition to their proposals.

For the current advertising push, Enbridge's marketing team decided to teach the public introductory physics: any action of any kind takes energy. Thus the tagline "E = [insert happy thing here]."

It's not clear how this "life takes energy" campaign, which essentially reminds us that we're all energy-hungry environmental dirtbags consuming way beyond our planet's carrying capacity, will convince thinking people that Enbridge should be permitted to build more pipelines across Canada's remaining wilderness. If anything, it could just as easily be a call to scale down our consumption.

But pitching this message to Tim Hortons customers, a slice of hard-working average Canadians accustomed to sitting in drive-thru lineups, obviously promised better returns for Enbridge than something like sponsoring Walrus talks à la Suncor. Associating Tim's warm, addictive coffee with Canada's abundant, addictive oil and gas would seem like a natural fit.

But it's funny how the internet works, as "powering" nutritionally empty calories with morally empty petro-calories didn't fly and Tim Hortons can now go back to what it does best: hosting Conservatives.

Neither Tim Hortons nor Enbridge responded to requests for comment from VICE.

Chris Malmo is a grassroots development officer at OpenMedia. Follow him on Twitter.

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