City of Toronto Historic Sites is making use of a cheeky promotional campaign to get millennials / Generation Y interested in local history.
WTF? (What the Fact) is part social media engagement and part traditional advertising promotion aimed at growing a younger audience for the city’s museums.
“It’s a way to revitalize our whole brand and the museums, and make people know we may be about history, but we’re certainly not historic,” said Karen Black, manager of museum services for the city.
Until the middle of September, 100 TTC bus shelters across the city are displaying ads showing a single zoomed-in shot of an unknown artifact found in one of the 10 city museums, with the tagline, “WTF?” and the invitation to post guesses on the object’s identity via social media.
Ilena Aldini-Messina, program supervisor for museum services, said the eight objects chosen for the first WTF? campaign are relatively easy to identify, ranging from artworks to everyday items, most of which date back to the late 19th century.
“The point is to inspire people to want to find out what the images are by doing research or learning about them,” Aldini-Messina said. The provocative name - a play on words of a widely used Internet acronym profanely denoting extreme confusion - was chosen knowing it might offend some, a necessary risk to have the campaign stand out, Aldini-Messina said.
“It is cheeky and that’s why we think it will work. It’s different and it’s a new way to get audiences because they are the future of our city,” she said.
About 1,200 people have already shared the WTF? campaign or commented on it through Toronto’s Historic Sites facebook page and Twitter. Correct guesses will win a pass for two to any city museum and the objects’ identities are scheduled for reveal at the end of the campaign, Tuesday, Sept. 10.
“We hope the campaign sparks discussion, because in our opinion any discussion is good when it gets people talking about history,” Aldini-Messina said.