The Salvation Army creates poverty tour experience


How often do you stop and take a second to think about the battles people around you could be facing?

It’s all too easy to get caught up in our busy lives and become blissfully unaware that people close to us are actually going through really tough times.

The Salvation Army wanted to change this. The charitable organisation used an engaging experiential marketing stunt that encouraged tourists in Canada to think about one devastating situation many Canadians find themselves facing: poverty.

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The Salvation Army took over a tram bus, disguised as ‘Canadian Discovery Tours’ – inviting unsuspecting tourists to hop on to see some of Toronto’s top sights.

The tour started off in pretty ordinary fashion, with the tour guide pointing out historic places and listing off interesting facts. But it soon took a surprising turn.

When passing Toronto’s Eaton Shopping Mall, the tour guide took to the microphone in a typical up-beat tone and said: “Over 50 million people come here every year…unless they’re part of the one in 10 Canadians who struggle to pay for basic necessities such as food and clothing”.

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People on the tour began to look a little confused, but the tour guide didn’t stop there, pointing out that 1 in 5 households struggle to pay bills and the harrowing reality that 860,000 people in Canada rely on a foodbank.

The aim of this campaign from The Salvation Army was to expose that poverty isn’t always limited to homelessness, and that many people with homes and families are still classed as living below to poverty line.

By cleverly deciding to take over a tour bus to provide an engaging experience, The Salvation Army was able to keep the attention of its captive audience for the whole journey: difficult to achieve with most other platforms.

By delivering such an important message in a very direct and personal face-to-face way, The Salvation Army ensured that its message hit home, hard.

Getting people to sit up and pay attention to an important message can often be a hard job, but creative experiential marketing is the perfect way to cut through the noise.

If you want more inspiring examples of some hard-hitting but moving experiential campaigns about poverty, then take a look at Megamax’s shocking in-store homeless bed experience, or when a Swedish opera house created a campaign that highlighted just how many homeless people are ignored on a daily basis.

Author bio


With nearly 30 years of marketing experience, both client and agency side, I’ve acquired a rare perspective on brands and business: I believe you have to challenge things creatively if you want to grow sales. Consumer technology is reshaping our world, and it’s only the great brands that stay on the crest.