IIt’s been a while since Toronto radio listeners heard 90s hip-hop star Snow on a regular basis, but this week he’s hitting the airwaves again.
The ‘Informer’ artist is back on GTA-area radio stations as part of a new campaign for the City of Toronto’s Transportation Department, informing residents about the city’s snow-clearing plan in an insidiously catchy 30-second spot created by the old office of the city of record, Publicis Canada.
The song has already hit listeners’ ears and inspired a Reddit thread on r/askTO called “Did I just hear Canadian rapper ‘Snow’ sing on the radio about Toronto’s Snow clearing program?”
Radio has been a mainstay in the city’s annual communications about snow removal in homes, but the goal this year has been to avoid some of the tried-and-true approaches that characterized previous efforts, said Tyler Schell, associate creative director of Publicis in Toronto.
“There are the usual tropes in radio ads, but we wanted to break through,” he said. “We have a lot of details to bring out, so how do we do that in a memorable way that gets this information into people’s brains and makes it fun?”
Schell quickly came up with the idea of a song, assuming it would be a natural match for radio, and in subsequent discussions with group account director Silvia Parkinson, it didn’t take long for Snow’s name to surface. “We said ‘Hold on, we’re doing’ [an ad about snow], how much more of a perfect match could it be?”
Within just a few weeks of Publicis contacting Snow’s team, the hip-hop star showed up at Toronto audio house SNDWRX to cut the song. In true hip-hop star fashion, he showed up with a small crew, including a member with a guard dog on a leash.
“We were told ‘Don’t go for a pet,’” Schell recalls. “But they came in like a real street in Toronto, which was pretty cool.”
It was a two-hour recording session, with the star “Snow-ifying” the lyrics Schell had written. “If it snows in the city, we immediately sprinkle the streets,” he raps in the reggae-infused song. “So you can stay safe and go about your day. Then we’ll keep an eye on the snow oh-oh autumn, so no-no-no worry. You don’t have to call. Because when the snow becomes 8 cm high, we will come your way with the plow.”
The campaign is part of a broader communications approach that includes direct mail, display and pre-roll video. But don’t be surprised if there’s a remix next year. “When Snow left the studio, he said, ‘When are we doing the next?’ said Schell. “He was a fan.”