Wine and Beer Convenience Campaign | Bill Kennedy, LCBO Deputy Communications

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Logo of LCBO.

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Picture this.  Early 2007, a boardroom meeting with about a dozen dozing gently civil servants, Jeff Newton, The Beer Store’s all round spokesperson and Mr. Fix-it, and Sarah Taylor, TBS Communications Manager.  Also on hand was the chief fox among the chickens, Bill Kennedy, LCBO Deputy Communications Gonzo.

It’s the 11th hour, just before launching the take-your-empties-back pitch to a gleeful and grateful Ontario public.  Legions of staff had been working 10- and 12-hour days on this thing for months and most were expecting that the LCBO would cough up, as promised, the $1.5 million to market the message over the longer term. Idea was to keep telling happy shoppers that they can get their dime or two-bits back when they take their booze containers to The Beer Store and help the environment to boot.

Bill explained, as if he were talking to a roomful of trainable monkeys, that the money had simply disappeared.  Oh, there was some horseshit about how much LCBO marketing budget had already been spent on logo development, letter-sized posters, decals and few hundred plastic bags blah blah blah.  By then, they’d actually spent, about $35K, which was supposed to be independent of the 1.5 million smackers, truth be told.  But that’s not Bill’s department.

Any questions from snivel servants or The Beer Store were quickly dismissed like so many mosquitoes around Bill’s head.  Silence was deafening from the Environment Ministry’s Assistant Comm Director John (Arrogant Worm) Whytock.  Not one question.

Back story on this is there’d been a royal dust-up between Environment Minister Laurel Broten and Infrastructure Minister David Caplan because neither of them wanted this caper.  Caplan’s ministry got stuck doing all the work, while Broten and crew got most of the credit and were set to inherit the deal post-announcement.  They didn’t want it and took it like champion sourpusses as did their bureaucrats.

Not getting the marketing dollars was music to Why Talk’s ears because it meant that his bunch could carry on with whatever they were doing and not have to do any work to promote the empties for the environment gig, because, duh, there was no money in the budget to do it.

In any case, the whole meeting left The Beer Store duo, Jeff and Sarah, uncharacteristically at a loss for words.   Sputtering was as close as either of them got to human speech as they realized the rug had been pulled out from under them.

Uncle Bill declared the meeting over and rolled back to the LCBO Summerhill head office bunker, pockets a-jingle.  Where’d the money go?

Why does the LCBO take credit for the program’s success in all their annual reports since?  Why don’t the news media ask Bill?

LCBO Wine and Beer Convenience Campaign | Posters go up, Posters come down

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Liza Minnelli visits the tomb of Eva Peron

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I love the smell of poster glue in the morning.  Especially when I’m part of a team that’s plastering Toronto with the Wine and Beer Convenience Campaign poster.

On a recent summer morning, I was on get-away car duty by 6:30.  This is an odd choice for me since I don’t know my right from my west, well, you get the picture.  Navigating to the widely scattered LCBO locations in town was a bit freaky for someone who can barely find the Gardner Expressway with a klieg light and the assistance of a Sherpa guide, but I got through it okay.

Can’t say the morning got off to such a great start.   When I put my specs on to read the news before taking the wheel to bring poster madness and dreams of corner store wine and beer to the people of Ontario, I found my vision totally blurry.  Worrying that I had suffered a mild stroke in my sleep, I took the cheaters off and realized they were covered in poster glue back spray, a common professional hazard.

Into the car and over to the Spadina China Town LCBO outlet to watch a teammate do the poster staple and/or glue routine depending on whether it’s a wooden or concrete pole.  LCBO staff keep taking them down, so we have lots of revisits there.

We have a code of honor so we don’t plaster mail boxes or parking meters and never anywhere near a school.  Best part is watching the brave flyer champion stick the folded poster in the front doors of the locked LC stores.  It adds a touch of poetry, I think.

It’s now 7:45 a.m. and traffic is starting glug slower through the city.  We’re already getting on each other’s nerves.  The Bloor and Ossington shop is done by then, but we realize we should have eaten breakfast and brought a decent map. Cheap GPS keeps telling us in Spanish we have reached our destination, um, we think.  We try switching it to English and get some limey git telling us, “Please, tuhn, awnto the motahway.” What the what?

Rounding out to near 8 a.m., we find ourselves at the Dupont and Spadina LCBO where three tubby overpaid staffers shuck and jive waiting for someone to unlock the palace so they can get inside for some real shut-eye.  They are completely obviously to our poster czar as he hangs the anti-monopoly sheet about 5 meters from their gabfest.

Now it’s 9 a.m. and we are definitely out of patience and running on empty.  We crawl our way through traffic to the Beaches stores and stop for breakfast at the Tulip on Queen East.  As we work our way through a rasher of bacon and far too many eggs, we debate who’s in one of the autographed celebrity gallery photos. My mate says it’s Liza Minnelli (oh yeah, a frequent Tulip diner).  Turns out, it’s comedian Mike Myers.  We decide we really need some Windex for our glue-smeared glasses and some Tums while we’re at it.

Last stop is, I can’t remember.  But I do remember watching the strapping lad pasting and stapling to stir up corner booze anarchy (so far only one of his fingers has managed to come between the staple gun and the paper, ouch!)  I admire the skills of this deeply talented poster hanger, working to bring truth, justice, and a corner store six-pack within the reach of a grateful nation.

We want to acknowledge the Kinko’s team at Bloor and Major for their fine print job and for giving us a charity status discount.  Cheers, guys.

LCBO News | Wine and Beer Convenience Poster Campaign up and growing

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The Wine and Beer Convenience poster is starting to show up everywhere in downtown Toronto and getting a lot of attention from people who say, “Yes. I want wine and beer at my corner store!”

Bloor St., from Ossington to Spadina is awash in the flyers as is the Chinatown- Kensington Market Spadina track and surrounding streets.  Passersby continue to notice the posters and connect with our online community.

Few have been removed and we celebrate that as an outstanding sign of support for our campaign to get Ontario liquor laws changed so that wine and beer can be purchased by responsible Ontario consumers at the corner store.  Many posters have been downloaded and  posted by our online supporters who have made the street presence a reality in their neighborhoods.  We hope you will do the same.

Posters have gone up in and around LCBO stores and shoppers en route to the stores are stopping for a look and a taking note of the sites where they can get more information.

Almost unanimous support is coming from people on the street when interrupted in their reading of the poster.  “Get this done,” said one.  “ Keep hanging these up,” said another.

One reader was actually on his way to the local LCBO outlet yesterday afternoon.  “It’s my day off and I actually have time to get to the LCBO.  It would be great if there were more places to get a simple six pack of beer on a hot day.  Good luck to you.”

Look for the posters to multiply and continue broadcasting Wine and Beer Convenience Campaign messages  to a growing number of followers, online and on the street.

LCBO Wine and Beer Convenience Campaign | LCBO Vintages magazine

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This is my own work. Photo by Gila Brand. Moos...

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Looking at the LCBO Vintages magazine is like a gander at folly. It’s like looking at a tourist promotion to come to an excitingly exotic locale, many kilometers away. But, they assure you, it’s worth the long trip in traffic to get to the Vintages Magic Kingdom.

After all, their job is engaging their customers in a discovery of the world.

The Vintage’s magazine is high on production values and a lot of come-ons for the life-altering offerings the store within a store has on special. They seem to have lifted a page from that wise old retailer, Honest Ed’s. “Don’t just stand there; buy something.” “Come on in, you lucky people.”

Or in the case of the LCBO Vintages, “Don’t just walk to your corner store for a bottle of Perrin La Gille Gigondes 2009; get in your car and chug to the LCBO.” Price is only $29.95.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit pricey even for my relatively solvent neighbors if they found it at the corner convenience store. Nevertheless, there are many fine and modestly priced wines that could be made available to the Ontario consumer without them having to go to Honest LCBO’s Vintages. Nice complexity, you lucky people.