During the month of February, you may have noticed cartoon sitcom characters Homer and Marge Simpson taking in the sights downtown.
The duo stopped in at a number of local businesses as part of a month-long promotion run by the Prince Albert Downtown Business Improvement District (PADBID).
PADBID executive director Rhonda Trusty said the idea came from the challenge of having to market multiple businesses and stick to a theme or message. She said it’s been and engaging way to get people interested in coming downtown.
“Each place of business that you walk into, you are trying to create a fun and engaging storyline with minimal words in your post content,” Trusty explained. “The downtown business owners have been supportive of my ideas and I am thankful that the positive messages are reminding folks of the good businesses and good people that work in our downtown.”
The videos involved more than just businesses. In January, Sgt. Derek Simonson of the Prince Albert Police Service was on hand to pull Homer over in front of the downtown station.
Trusty said they wanted to incorporate Homer’s love of Duff Beer into the campaign, but also wanted to warn about the dangers of drinking and driving. They eventually came up with the idea to have Homer arrested for drinking and driving after being spotted with an open Duff in his vehicle.
“Sergeant Derek Simonson (a.k.a. Chief Wiggum) suggested the M.A.D.D. organization be a part of our skit,” Trusty said. “I called Karen Anthony-Burns and we coordinated their signage and that is how our public service announcement with Homer, the Prince Albert Police Service and M.A.D.D. was created.”
Anthony-Burns and Darren Deck the president of Prince Albert MADD, were on hand for the shoot in January.
The concept followed up on PADBID’s Grinch Campaign over Christmas. The campaign for February needed a theme too.
“February is the month of love and Valentine’s Day,” Trusty explained. “I wanted to introduce a couple that represented this idea of couple-hood and use characters that was easily identifiable.”
Trusty said they considered using Fred and Wilma Flintstone instead, but ultimately settled on Homer and Marge Simpson. She said the couple had fun elements and she introduce them through storylines on social media.
“As an example, one of the foods that Homer loves is pizza,” Trusty said. “TJ’s Pizza is in our Downtown Business District and when I reached out to owner, Toby Jaeger, he was more than accommodating to have Homer and Marge ‘help out.’”
The Homer and Marge Simpson campaign follows on the heels of a similar Christmas campaign with the Grinch. That campaign evolved over a week or two talking to Walter Chester ahead of the Santa Claus Parade. Chester was open to ideas and she wrote a short list of scenarios for businesses willing to come into their stores.
The photographer on both Homer and the Grinch is Aiden Edwards, who Trusty said has a passion for graphic art and photography.
“He thinks outside the box and we had fun with this idea of the Grinch exploring the business community,” Trusty said. “My experience working in television has helped me visualize and create content that has a different perspective.”
She also utilized a public service aspect to both campaigns and reached out to the Prince Albert Fire Department along with Prince Albert Police. Trusty also reached out to Parkland Ambulance, who made an ambulance and staff available for shots downtown.
Her idea was the storyline of Homer walking, slipping and Parkland Ambulance being called by Marge to assist Homer. That storyline alone has generated over 15,000 social media impressions.
This was followed by the Homer arrest campaign, which started to go live on Sunday on PADBID social media.
“I was very pleased with the response from the community,” she said. “It was heartwarming to see the post interactions and the positive comments about the Grinch exploring our downtown.”
Trusty said it’s been fun to watch Prince Albert residents embrace the campaign. She’s also grateful for the people who made such a positive campaign possible.
“It is easy to be negative about our city and the downtown. Having the opportunity to build a team of people who are creative and have the same positive goals like Walter Chester, Hannah Thoms and Aiden Edwards, is part of the success story,” Trusty said.