Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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The Toronto Tunnel – ‘Nuff Said!
By Madhavi Mangu Dasi   |  Jul 14, 2008

TORONTO, ON – After almost 40 years of Ratha-Yatras in North America, a distinct challenge has arisen with respect to how to promote these festivals in new and creative ways.

For many devotees, Ratha-Yatra is equated with radiant colours, resounding vibrance, exciting exhibits and entertainment showcasing the beautiful Vaishnava culture. But from a marketing perspective, argue some devotees, perhaps our messaging has become a bit repetitive. Many devotees advertising the Ratha Yatra proclaim that devotees should attend their respective festivals to “see Lord Jagannatha” or “pull the chariot of the Lord.”

The Toronto Ratha-Yatra Organizing Committee felt their pre-festival messaging could use some innovation.

And so they set out to come up with a way of conveying how contemporary, stimulating, and relevant the festival is, and to appeal to both the devotee and non-devotee communities.The committee decided to rise to this challenge by creating not one, but five different marketing campaigns to promote their annual Festival of India to five distinct target markets, each with their own creative twist.

Toronto’s Ratha-Yatra, which is currently in its 36th year, is reputed to be one of the largest in North America with approximately 35,000 plates of prasadam distributed throughout the course of the two-day festival. The target audiences for the five campaign include yoga enthusiasts, South Asians, and vegans/vegetarians. But the campaign with, perhaps, the most unique flavour has been designed for the internal ISKCON audience.

Instead of using a formulaic method of promoting Lord Jagannatha’s parade – offering a laundry list of the entertainment, or of visiting ISKCON sannyasis – just one element of their festival is highlighted: the roaring kirtan under the “Toronto Tunnel.” The kirtan during the parade, which cruises along Toronto’s famous Yonge Street, reaches a climax at the point when the procession goes under a bridge for a downtown expressway, hence “Toronto’s Tunnel.” According to the committee, the combination of the acoustics and the resounding kirtan yield such an unforgettable experience that it is reason enough for devotees to attend their Ratha-Yatra.

For this “Tunnel Campaign”, the Ratha-Yatra organizers decided to be minimalist in their approach, yet edgy in their execution. The campaign features teaser videos which showcase the unique energy and vigour of the kirtan under this tunnel, promoting it as an experience no kirtan lover can afford to miss.

The videos, set with dark backdrops and undertones (along with some daring language), are especially targeted towards the “cooler generation” of ISKCON with the hope that devotees will forward the videos to their friends.

In essence, the “Toronto Tunnel” represents an admittedly aggressive but playful attempt by the Toronto devotees to launch a viral marketing campaign. This innovative idea of using such a simple yet powerful aspect of the festival as a promotional theme is catching fire as devotees all over the world are clicking to see what exactly the Toronto Tunnel is.

So what exactly is all the fuss about?

To find out, visit ”¦ or, as the Toronto’s Ratha-Yatra Organizers would put it: “The Toronto Tunnel. ‘Nuff said.”