Words and Photography: Sophia Delafontaine

If you haven’t already seen Montreal Tourism’s latest promotional video Reviens-Moi, then you’ve probably heard about it. The video is a love ballad from Montreal asking their ex lover, the rest of Quebec, to come back to them. It was intended to be serious as well as satirical, yet it left some viewers confused. Were they supposed to be laughing at it, with it, or taking it seriously?

Marilou Aubin is the creative director for Agency Lg2, the media company that has regularly partnered with Tourism Montreal on projects for the last five years. She was also the creative director of Reviens-Moi. She says that although many people didn’t like the video, it was true to their creative vision. Aublin said they accomplished what they set out to do: achieve an aesthetic that was very particular in style and had been extensively studied by their team. “This was not a compromise. Sadly, this was really the result we wanted to have. Many people don’t like it, but this is exactly what we wanted to do,” she said.

The concept of ‘Quebec, come back to me’ was actually an extension of last year’s campaign. The idea? To target people within the province of Quebec. Usually Montreal’s tourism advertising is curated for Ontario, the United States, and Europe. “But for very short trips in the winter, the strategy was to go for the closest market, which are the cities beside Montreal,” said Aubin.

According to Aubin, the general understanding is that while Quebecers like to come to Montreal, they don’t necessarily like Montreal itself. “There is a relation of love and hate with Montreal for people who are not from Montreal,” said Aubin. “Its like sometimes they see us as the big city that thinks we are better than the rest of Quebec. So the idea of what we created last year is to say that we have changed.”

The song aimed to say just that by making Montreal out to be a cliche, desperate ex lover, showcasing how they’ve changed through new restaurants, new activities and new renovations, such as in the Old Port. “It was meant to be half serious, half funny. It was important to find a balance between funny and serious, because it was a serious love song, making the serious declaration of ‘come back to me,’ while we showcased all the attractions in Montreal,” said Aubin. “And at the same time it was to say we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We are not scared of laughing at ourselves and being humble by doing silly stuff like green screen.”

The line between seriosity and humour wasn’t the only origin of confusion regarding the video. The budget of $400,000 also had people talking about how the video could have possibly cost that much. Aubin says this was a misunderstanding and that the $400,000 price tag was for the entire campaign, including media buy, print, web, and all advertising. “Usually when we do advertising, 80 per cent of the budget goes to media and 20 per cent goes to production,” she said. “On this (video) the production was not that high.” Aubin added that this was a relatively small campaign. On average, big Quebec tourism campaigns will have a budget of $1.5 million for the Quebec market.

Tourism Montreal and Agency Lg2 will be changing next year’s campaign, but this is something they planned on doing anyway. “It’s something we said right at the beginning, that we could surf on the wave of last year once, but I don’t think we could surf on it twice,” said Aubin. Their intention is to continue working with the concept of Montreal’s relationship with other Quebec cities, but they are looking for a new way of expressing it. “I didn’t expect people to get so confused, I have to admit, but okay, I got it,” said Aubin. Next time she says they may end up going with a more straightforward approach by putting out content like ‘new things to do in Montreal’ and showcasing attractions.

However, Aubin pointed out that along with the confusion came a lot of chatter, leading the video to be highly publicized in the media and the number one most watched video clip for Quebec music videos. “We’re definitely proud, but I think everybody was stressed by the situation,” said Aubin. “But I think they remembered that in Montreal, we don’t do things like everybody else. That’s one thing for sure.”