Tim Hortons Digital OOH Network Stirs Controversy, Prompts Rethink

July 27, 2015 by Dave Haynes


Canadian QSR giant Tim Horton’s has run into the problem that has occasionally come up at just about any venue running third-party advertising as a cost-recovery measure: complaints about the advertisers.

CTV News, a Canadian broadcaster, reported today how the hyper-popular coffee and donut chain has found itself in the middle of a much broader dispute between the energy sector and environmentalists. It started when the Tims TV screens in the seating areas of Canadian locations started running ads for pipeline giant Enbridge.

Reports CTV News:

TimsTVThe commercials angered environmentalists who launched an online petition to get them pulled. When Tim Hortons yanked the Enbridge ads, some oil sector supporters called it an insult to one of Canada’s biggest industries and launched their own boycott.

The conflict showed the potential dangers of a brand as recognizable as Tim Hortons selling ad space to companies that could rankle its customers.

The coffee and doughnut chain began experimenting with Tims TV last year before rolling out screens at restaurants across the country. The company described Tims TV as its own version of a community space, serving as a home for the latest news, weather, local events and branded videos.

But the thrust of the concept was to pocket revenue from what’s essentially a billboard inside the restaurants. Advertisers could buy airtime on Tims TV in a looping rotation of content.

Canadian movie theatre operator Cineplex Inc. runs Tims TV as part of a multi-year agreement with Tim Hortons where both companies sell advertising time on the screens.

Asked about the situation, Daniel Schwartz, CEO of Tim Hortons’ parent company Restaurant Brands, said Monday the company is reviewing its Tims TV in-store digital screens.

“We’re now taking a look at the whole Tims TV program and what makes sense for the brand,” said Schwartz in an interview with The Canadian Press.

The easy solution, of course, would be to limit spots to house ads and those of business partners, or just focus on messaging that reinforces the pile of community good that Timmy’s is involved in across Canada. But that won’t cover the ops cost of the screens.

It is very likely Tims has some sort of approval or guardrails around acceptable advertising, but I doubt they saw this coming. Tims Tv is by no means the only media vehicle used by Enbridge.

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