The response to the insanely large and devastating forest fire at Fort McMurray, Alberta, in western Canada, has rallied support across the country, in a very wide variety of ways. There are 88,000 people displaced right now and a lot of them don’t know if they’ll come back to homes when they are allowed to return.
Fort Mac, as it is known for short, is the epicentre of the tar sands business, and that city largely exists because of the oily tar – the consistency of peanut butter – they extract from the ground and turn into oil and gas. Even people totally opposed to the process and environmental impacts can sympathize with the people just up there to work and build lives.
PATTISON Outdoor is the country’s largest privately-owned media company, and has more than 100 ad boards – static and digital – around that province, including up north in Fort Mac. The media time right now on digital is all dedicated to the Canadian Red Cross call for help.
“It’s nothing compared to the loss, but it’s something that is important to do,” says Ian Gadsby, the Toronto-based VP Digital Technology for PATTISON. “We’re also running the call for help on every screen we can find room on, across the country – but the impressive thing is how our Alberta division has dedicated all of their digital outdoor, for the next day at least, to getting the call out for help.”
“PATTISON is a Prairie company at its core. It’s where our founder was born, and it’s where our values of hard work and integrity lie,” adds Gadsby. “When there is pain in Fort Mac, there’s pain in each of our 400 people, no matter the timezone or language. Fort Mac is home to our clients, our partners, our technicians … It’s a drop in a bucket, but I hope it helps. Anything to get the call for help out is appreciated …. it’s getting worse, not better, out there today.”
“We lost some boards, but people lost homes and memories. It’s overwhelmingly sad. I spent a little bit of time out there building our digital at the airport, stayed at the hotels that are gone, and watched the live cameras (our monitoring cameras on our outdoor digital) as the flames reached the airport.”
Gadsby says if other OOH media companies in Canada want creative to run on their own inventory, “we’ll give it to them … whatever we can do.