Patio season is a special time of year. There’s nothing quite like sitting down, cold drink in hand, on a hot sunny day with friends and family - sharing everything from stories and laughs to delicious food. It’s a reminder that winter has gone, the days are longer, and in 2022, that life is returning to normal after the bleak years of covid-19. For Boston Pizza, the restaurant with the most patios across Canada, all these factors seem like fair cause for celebration.
Building off of their 2021 'Patio Re-Training’ campaign, which poked fun at the fact that most Canadians hadn’t sat on a public patio for over two years, this summer, Boston Pizza followed up with their brand new ‘Where Those in the Know, Patio’ campaign. Designed to commemorate the fact that Canadians once again knew how to patio properly, the campaign features several spots which riff on classic patio goer tropes, such as the person who yells ‘Opa!’ every time a plate breaks, or the person who always needs to borrow chairs from other tables. To embrace the spirit of these patio shenanigans, Boston Pizza has asked people to re-open their 2021 digital patio handbooks - allowing guests to collect a patio-themed, scouts-inspired badge for every time they visit. And, as an added bonus, those who do manage to finish their collection come summer’s end will have the chance to win one of five Boston Pizza gift cards, as well as a real life set of their full badge collection.
john st. executive creative director Cam Boyd and Boston Pizza VP of marketing James Kawalecki spoke to LBB’s Josh Neufeldt about how they brought this campaign to life.
LBB> ‘Where Those in the Know, Patio’ is a follow-up to Boston Pizza's 2021 'Patio Re-Training’ campaign. As such, what was the brief like? And what immediate ideas came to mind?
Cam> Last year, our campaign centred around the fact that although patio season had returned and restaurants were fully open, we had all forgotten how to be in public after our long covid-19 isolation. Thankfully, Boston Pizza (BP) was here to help. This year, the same cultural moment didn't apply. We needed to alter our focus with a new patio truism. With the Canadian patio season being incredibly short, our customers needed to make the most of the time they had. Their devotion to patioing was a point of pride. And with their patio skills recently relearned with the help of BP in 2021, our ‘Patio-ers’ deserved to be acknowledged and rewarded by the casual dining chain with the most patios in Canada.
LBB> What was the reaction to the ‘How to Patio’ campaign? And when did the idea to do a follow-up come about?
James> When we launched ‘Patio Re-Training’ in 2021, we saw an incredible response. The underlying truth of needing to re-learn basic life skills after basically not being allowed to socialise all winter was humorous, but also rooted in truth. ‘Where Those in the Know, Patio’ builds on the success of ‘Patio Re-Training’, but this summer, Canadians are mostly back to their normal lives so the message needed to evolve. We’ve awarded thousands of digital patio badges to BP patio-ers across Canada. The work is resonating.
LBB> What led to you choosing john st. for this project? And what was the brief you gave to them like?
James> We were looking for a way to break through the usual and expected restaurant advertising noise at a time when everyone was ready to get out of the house and get back onto patios. john st. did a great job in helping us communicate what makes the BP patio better than any other patio, in a way that feels very ownable.
LBB> What was the research process like for this campaign? Were there lessons that you learned from 2021 that were applicable here?
Cam> The 2021 campaign was a great success in sales and consumer buzz. When we looked back, a big reason for the success was that we took several hardly ever talked about but immediately relatable patio idiosyncrasies and put a spotlight on them. This year was no different. The variable was that while last year we were reacquainting you with these patio skills, this year we were applauding you for being so skillful in them.
LBB> What were your main aims and ambitions with this project?
James> Our number one goal was to drive as many Canadians as possible to the BP patio. But we knew that restaurant advertising can all look and feel quite similar, which can feel a bit boring. I don’t think any other Canadian restaurant brand could have credibly launched ‘Patio Re-Training’ or ‘Where Those in the Know, Patio’, and I don’t think it would have been as well-received.
LBB> What was the collaborative process like? Was it a matter of presenting your ideas and then letting john st. take the wheel from there, or were you hands on all the way throughout?
James> It was actually one of the fastest creative processes I can remember. I remember seeing the work for the first time on a Friday, and by (I think) Monday afternoon, we were kicking off production planning. It felt good from the beginning, so we wanted to avoid too much fiddling. It can hurt the work. Last year’s 72-page ‘Patio Re-Training’ manual required very few revisions because the idea was so pure. The same was true for this year’s 25 Patio Merit Badges. They were funny and well-received in the first creative presentation. I think we only tweaked a few.
LBB> Riffing on classic patio moves like the guy who yells ‘Opa!’ when a plate breaks is a clever way to make the ads relatable. What was the writing process like for the short spots?
Cam> Oh the ‘Opa!’ guy. He thinks he's so funny. It's the dad joke that everybody groans at in the moment but as stupid as that joke is, a patio wouldn't be a patio without a guy yelling ‘Opa!’ when a plate breaks. We were really hard on ourselves when picking these situations. They couldn't be ‘ad inventions’. They needed to be relatable. We literally came up with hundreds of these situations together, but if someone on the team wasn't familiar with the patio skill, that idea didn't make the cut
LBB> The 'Advanced Chair Borrowing' and 'DIY Breeze' spots are especially memorable. Where did you get the ideas for these? Were they based on actual people you've seen on the patio?
Cam> I'd like to think there are a lot of ‘pro-patioers’ on our team. But we absolutely did a lot of firsthand research. Observing ‘patioers’ in their natural environment was an absolute must. Both of those spots were born out of what we saw customers doing on a BP patio.
LBB> Who did you work with for the videos' production? If you were on set, do you have any interesting anecdotes or lessons learned?
Cam> We worked with Steve Mapp from Kiddo Films, Drew Frohmann from TA2 for audio and Cam Lasovich at Saints for editing. Storytelling in 15 seconds is complicated at the best of times, but with their help, the spots turned out really well. We were even able to add a few impromptu extras into our opening scene. I think they both have a great future as professional extras.
LBB> Do you personally have a favourite of the spots?
Cam> I don't have a single favourite actually. What we sought to achieve over the past two years with our BP work is showing the magic of a BP patio is in the sum of the parts. There's no singular patio experience that drives us to a sunny table on a summer afternoon. It's the promise of all the patio ingredients coming together that make the experience so unique. And that's what we've tried to convey in our work.
James> As someone who has ‘borrowed’ many patio chairs, I’ll go with ‘Chair Charmer’. I laughed and self-identified as soon as I read the script.
LBB> Rewarding patio-goers with Scouts-inspired proficiency badges is a fun idea. How did you come up with this, and what was the development process like?
Cam> We knew we wanted to make the BP patio THE place to go if you know what you are doing on a patio. There needed to be a way of rewarding people for their skills. There is something about merit badges that feels inherently summery. They're playful, fun and collectable. Again, what they allowed us to do is show that it's no one thing that makes a BP patio or a BP ‘patioer’ special. It's all the things. And the more badges you were able to collect, the more patio fun you could brag about to others.
LBB> How have people reacted to the opportunity to digitally collect badges? Have there been any standout cases of people completing their collection in a short period of time?
Cam> We've been very pleased with the badges earned so far and the sales numbers that go along with them. With more than a month to go in summer, we've had over 7,000 badges collected by 'pro-patioers' across the country. This is far beyond what we thought we would have seen at this point in the campaign.
James> There have been thousands of patio badge accounts registered and many thousands more digital patio badges collected. Last month we had several people with 24 out of the 25 available badges already in their digital wallet, waiting for the ‘Full Moon Patio-ing’ badge to be released. It was amazing to see this level of engagement with the digital badges. I think a lot of people want to win the physical badge grand prize.
LBB> How has this response compared to your 2021 campaign so far? How does this campaign fit in with your marketing strategy for the summer, and in the long-term?
James> The response to this year’s work is, in my view, as strong as last year’s, or stronger. We’re building on work that was seen and loved by many, so the momentum is in our favour. We have a really great feature menu this summer thanks to our ‘Culinary & Beverage’ team, but it’s not always enough to focus on the product. Our competitors can do that too. We had more to say about patio expertise, so I think the decision to build on our 2021 campaign idea was the right one.
LBB> What challenges have you faced during this project? How did you overcome them?
Cam> The biggest problem we had to overcome was figuring out how we would continue to build on the momentum of our 2021 patio campaign in a new, but equally universal way. I think we have achieved our goals with the campaign this year, with consumer-centric work that continues to secure Boston Pizza as the leader in all things patio.
James> Whenever you create a 72-page manual or design 25 merit badges, there are timeline pressures and production challenges. But john st. has been an incredible partner in helping us navigate these complexities, while also getting this great work into the market seamlessly.
LBB> Do you have any patio ‘accolades’ of your own? And what's the craziest thing you've seen someone do on the patio?
Cam> I grew up in Etobicoke, so I've seen some crazy things in my pro-patioing career. But those stories are best left between me, the sun and a cold pint of beer.
James> I’ve collected all 25 digital patio badges, so that makes me a patio pro, right? Last year on our Huntsville patio, a guest cast a line into the river to fish. So, we made a badge out of it.
LBB> Is there anything you'd like to add?
Cam> The working relationship between john st. and Boston Pizza has been one of the more collaborative of my career. They love to champion great, category-leading ideas, and we at john st. love our partnership with them and bringing our best to the (patio) table.