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How McCann and Wendy’s Pulled the Strings Behind Toronto’s Mysterious ‘French Toast Guy’



The truth about the recent Torontonian media sensation, writes LBB’s Josh Neufeldt

How McCann and Wendy’s Pulled the Strings Behind Toronto’s Mysterious ‘French Toast Guy’

‘Subway’. It’s a word that, unless you’re thinking of the sandwich franchise, is not generally associated with food. After all, whether you’re in New York, Beijing or Toronto, there’s nothing about a (generally) grimy, packed-full-of-people train car that’s particularly appetising. One might take the subway to get food, but unless there’s no other option, eating on the subway is rarely the play… except for, as it turns out, one man in Toronto.

Now, this begs the question, what’s so special about a person eating on the Toronto subway, other than the fact that it’s not the most popular of choices? Well, this was not just some snacker, or an average person munching on a lunchtime sandwich. The man in question could be found eating French toast of all things, at a portable table fully decked with cutlery, additional toppings, a decorative tablecloth… and a mysterious bell!

First appearing on January 10th, the ‘#FrenchToastGuy’, as he was quickly called, soon started popping up around the city - with a particular focus on the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) during the morning commutes. On one day, he could be seen riding the King to Dufferin loop. On another occasion, his setup was pitched inside Bathurst station. He even was spotted braving the frigid January conditions at one point, contentedly eating his breakfast of choice at the St. Andrew’s streetcar stop. 

As one might expect, this quickly became a local internet sensation. Who was this man? Why had he suddenly just appeared? And most importantly, why was he eating French toast on Toronto’s public transit system? Was this some sort of PR stunt, or just a genuine enjoyer of the breakfast staple who wanted to share his appreciation of syrupy, fried bread with the city? 

These swirling rumours and whispers on the internet quickly evolved into news stories from nearly every Toronto-based outlet, each pressing for the details to come to light. And that’s when it happened. On the morning of January 17th, The ‘French Toast Guy’s’ cumbersome French toast was swapped for the more portable, easier to eat version - Wendy’s ‘Homestyle French Toast Sticks’.

So how did this come to pass? Well, as it turns out, this creative and undoubtedly unexpected campaign, right down to the ‘French Toast Guy’ himself, was the brainchild of McCann, who used the media hype and footage to make a big deal out of the fact that the Wendy’s offering was now available for on-the-go consumption - reminding Canadians that they don’t need a full restaurant setup during their morning commute to enjoy a delicious breakfast. 

“The Wendy’s ‘French Toast Guy’ was a fun way for us to celebrate and toast to a breakfast worth waking up for,” says Liz Geraghty, chief marketing officer, international, of The Wendy’s Company. “Hopefully we’ve been able to bring renewed love to French toast and prove that there is a way to enjoy it anywhere with new ‘Homestyle French Toast Sticks’.” 

While unable to quantify media impressions or sales metrics at this time, Liz adds that this decision to amplify and promote this stunt, with the help of Initiative, via TikTok, Instagram, Reddit and Twitter, seems to have worked quite effectively. “The media pickup and public reaction has been amazing, especially considering we received just as much positive press for the ‘French Toast Sticks Guy’ as we did when we introduced the character.” 

So, with the cat out of the bag, the big question that residents of ‘The Six’ will be asking is, will 'French Toast Guy' ever return? After all, with many layers of secrecy still surrounding this sweet-toothed spirit, there certainly seems room for an eventual return. However, to that question, Liz’s lips are tightly sealed. All she can reveal is that throughout 2023, Wendy’s will be focusing on promoting the portability and convenience of the ‘French Toast Sticks’. “Will we ever see #FrenchToastGuy again? We prefer for that to remain, much like most things about him, a mystery. 

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McCann Canada, Tue, 24 Jan 2023 13:40:57 GMT