to spawn sister cities online » Media in Canada to spawn sister cities online

Toronto's interactive visual search engine is growing, and more marketing opps are in the works for the virtual city streetscape.

The virtual Toronto streetscape is building more marketing opportunities into an updated version of its online world, set for launch in July with newly branded virtual cabs courtesy of Beck Taxi and streaming video on the virtual billboards found throughout the city. New features will also include a 360-degree environment at Yonge-Dundas Square, a rotating sky that mimics the time of day and accurate weather patterns such as sun and rain.

Currently, the site allows users to hail a virtual taxi and cruise the streets as the city’s skyline moves across the windshield, stopping at hotels, restaurants, theatres and clubs. Each destination showcases a Toronto business in the virtual world – kind of like an interactive directory. The site is home to 115 stops, but plans to double that number within about four months.

Next month, the year-old site will re-launch with a renovated look and more opps for marketers, such as more prominent billboards capable of streaming video. In August, a sister site serving Vancouver will launch at (click to see the ‘coming soon’ promo). The company plans to launch virtual streetscapes for Montreal and New York in 2008.

Director of sales and marketing Tim Gordanier tells MiC is currently averaging about 1.2 million page views per month. So far, promotion for the site has consisted of search marketing, online word-of-mouth and event sponsorships with partners such as Second City. Other past sponsors at have included Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and Molson.

Gordanier says a campaign for radio, TV and print is scheduled to roll out with next month’s upgraded site. With Beck Taxi as a two-year partner, will be promoted via sticker ads inside cabs throughout Toronto, while other promotions involving daily prizes (won by entering codes online from taxi receipts) are also in the works.

Publicity for is handled by Toronto-based Brands-To-Go. Creative is produced in-house.