Taxi confounds complacency
with guerilla campaign for Covenant House

To make the message hit home about what might befall 'nice' neighbourhoods if Canada's largest shelter for homeless youth didn't exist, the agency posted official-looking public notices in downtown Toronto yesterday.

Taxi Toronto’s new guerilla campaign for youth shelter provider Covenant House was designed to first grab the attention of passersby and then ‘challenge their out-of-sight, out-of-mind assumptions (by using) an everyday medium,’ says Taxi Canada VP/ECD Zak Mroueh. That meant posting three official-looking, black-and-white notice boards that replicate rezoning signs at key points in downtown Toronto yesterday. The only tipoff that they’re not the real thing is the note advising citizens of their right to ‘appeal or refute this application’ by visiting the Covenant House website.

One sign reads, ‘An application to amend the zoning by-law has been made by a neglected 16-year-old to permit the rezoning of this corner for the allowance of prostitution.’ The other signs suggest amending by-laws to erect a cardboard dwelling and licensing a squeegee operation. The campaign broke yesterday and will run in donated spaces including College Park and Commerce Court until just before Christmas.

In addition to the sign installations, Taxi developed an accompanying seasonal campaign for Covenant House that includes transit ads, print ads in Maclean’s, Elle, Time, Today’s Parent the Globe & Mail and the National Post. There is also a web component and a radio spot on five Toronto stations. All media space was donated by the venues and negotiated for pro bono by Toronto’s Media Experts agency

Aiming to give street kids a home for the holidays thanks to public donations, each of three executions features a person preparing for the holidays – with the position of their limbs forming a house through which a homeless youngster is visible.