Behind the Buy: Amex buys big for Shop Small

City-specific content on Twitter, Pinterest and Spotify, as well as hyper-targeted OOH, brings the second edition of the brand's summer campaign into focus for locals.
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By Sarah Khan

Throughout the pandemic, there has been an emphasis on shopping locally to support small businesses. Now that the world is starting to open up again, American Express Canada is encouraging Canadians to continue this support with its Shop Small program.

In its second year, the tagline for the 2021 integrated campaign is “Let’s Go Small” ― aimed to encourage its card members to support neighbourhood businesses in exhange for statement credits.

Just as it had done last year, the brand is focusing on showcasing real business owners within neighbourhoods across the country, Vanessa Crooker, VP of advertising, enterprise loyalty and partnerships at Amex Canada tells CARD.

But while this year’s media buy is comprised of OOH billboards in high-traffic areas and national TV spots during traditional and specialty programming, Crooker says it also wanted to complement its mass media mix with hyper-targeted placements. She says the brand placed QR codes on street-level boards directing pedestrians to its Amex Maps, a digital platform that connects users with nearby small businesses.

The brand also adopted a local-led strategy on social, working with influencers Tyrone Edwards, Sonia Zarbatany and Karin Bohn to connect audiences to entrepreneurs through the new “Neighbourhood Walks Video Series,” with the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver influencers showing viewers how small businesses are helping to shape and grow their communities.

“Through influencer marketing, we’re able to showcase real people shopping small and supporting businesses that are truly meaningful to them,” says Crooker. “And, in turn, influencers help encourage their audiences to participate by driving offer enrollments through swipe up links and link in bios to the landing page.”


On Twitter, the team partnered with Corus’ social and digital agency so.da once again to bring back its #ShopSmall original series, with four episodes featuring different businesses and hosted by HGTV’s Sebastian Clovis housed on the brand’s Twitter profile and Global’s TV App.

Crooker says the decision to reprise the Twitter Originals series was made to further “shine a light on small businesses and help give audiences an in-depth look into how they make our neighbourhoods vibrant.”

The company also partnered with Twitter and third-party vendor Jebbit to create and promote an interactive choose-your-own-adventure-type shopping experience, in which users answer a series of multiple-choice questions to be paired with a specific local business to support.

It’s also using Pinterest for the first time in the Canadian market, says Crooker, with targeted Shop Small content that aligns with trending interests and themes, like dining and décor. Similarly, it chose to use Spotify for its “Shop Small” campaign for the first time, noting that the team “recognized it as a valuable channel to reach our audience considering the consumption increases in the past year.”