'Tombstones' on storefronts urge residents to shop local

City of Toronto's campaign aims to save neighborhood businesses after lockdown

Published On
Jun 11, 2021

Editor's Pick

Residents of Toronto are seeing "tombstone" signs on neighborhood stores as part of a campaign by the city to get people to save small businesses after the lockdowns and shop local.

Toronto has seen some of the strictest and longest-running lock-downs in North America, with indoor dining closed since October and hairdressers and barbers shuttered since November. To help keep the city's small business afloat, the campaign, created by agency Berners Bowie Lee for the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), reminds locals of their plight.

It more than 400 businesses across the greater Toronto area displaying “Buy Toronto Time" posters resembling tombstones in their windows. Each poster includes the business name and opening date, but the second date remains blank— indicating that their future is undetermined. There are also over 100 billboards across the city, and an Instagram account (@buytorontotime) sharing moving stories of the participating businesses. 

In addition, a TV ad, seen above, is running, showing some of the struggling businesses and featuring a voiceover by Clifford Paul, whose barbershop has been closed for over six months due to lockdown restrictions. Businesses can sign up to join the campaign and display posters at buytorontotime.com.

Most people in the city want to help local businesses,” says Michael Murray, founding partner, creative, Berners Bowie Lee. “When a place we love closes we feel a sense of sadness and we often regret that we didn’t do more to help.Buy Toronto Time’ is a campaign that triggers this sense of loss to nudge people in neighborhoods across Toronto into action.”


Tombstone sign on Cici's Pizza & Wings
Tombstone sign on West End Comics store:
Lighted outdoor sign
Billboard in Chester metro station


Jun 11, 2021
Client :
Agency :
Berners Bowie Lee
Executive Director :
John Kiru
Co-founders/Creative Director :
Devon Williamson
Co-founders/Creative Director :
Michael Murray
Planning Lead :
Jeff George
Co-founder/Business Lead :
Matt Cammeart
Print Production :
Kim Bauer
Producer :
Lorrie Zwer
Producer :
Camielle Clark
Print Production :
PR :
Shanon Stephaniuk
PR :
Media Planning :
Corus Entertainment
Senior Director of In House Media Agency :
Andrea Parnell
Director of Media Planning :
Karen Geller
Media Planning Coordinator :
Hunter Peebles
Production Company :
Untitled Films
Director/Director of Photography :
Jesse Louttit
Executive Producer :
Lexy Kavluk
Executive Producer :
Tom Evelyn
2nd Camera :
Alex Bros
Editorial Photographer :
Ian Willms
Producer :
Nick Gervais
Casting :
Shasta Lutz
Casting :
Jigsaw Casting
Editorial :
Saints Editorial
Editor :
Christopher Chang
Executive Producer :
Michelle Rich
Post Production :
Alter Ego
Executive Producer :
Hilda Pereira
Colorist :
Patrick Samaniego
VFX Artist :
Sebastian Boros
Music and Sound Design :
Grayson Music Group
Voice Director :
Tyson Kuteyi
Engineer :
Chris Masson
Sound Design :
Ben Swarbrick
Producer :
Nicholas Shaw

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Project Type