Tim Hortons yanks Enbridge ads, Tories call for a boycott

Twitter firestorm erupts as coffee chain pulls ads from its in-store screens

Tim Hortons has brewed up controversy for its decision to yank ads by pipeline giant Enbridge from its in-store screens.

On Thursday morning, the coffee-and-doughnut purveyor responded to complaints about the ads on Twitter, telling individual users: “We value your feedback and the Enbridge advertisements are no longer airing on Tims TV.”

But the tempest in a Timbit only grew as oil industry supporters lashed out against the move.

The top-trending Twitter hashtag on Thursday afternoon in Canada was #BoycottTims.

Calgary Conservative MPs Jason Kenney, Michelle Rempel and Joan Crockatt took the chain to task on Twitter.

“I’m proud to represent thousands of constituents who work for Enbridge & other CDN energy companies,” Kenney, the defence minister, tweeted.

Tim Hortons declined to comment.

Enbridge is the dominant shipper of oilsands crude and plans to build the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline to the West Coast.

“We have enjoyed working with them and respect their decision,” said Enbridge spokesman Graham White in an email.

SumOfUs, a global group that targets well-known brands, started an online petition on Wednesday afternoon pressing Tim Hortons to stop “shilling”¬†for the oilsands industry.

By the time senior SumOfUs campaigner Emma Pullman woke up Thursday morning, the ad was taken down. Some 28,000 people had signed the petition as of Thursday afternoon.

“Tim Hortons, though it’s not a Canadian company anymore, has built itself a really strong place in the hearts and minds of Canadians,” said Pullman.

The Enbridge brand does not enjoy the same support, she added.

“The kind of overwhelming response to the campaign shows that they couldn’t pull it off, it didn’t work,” she said.

“I think that what it shows is that Enbridge has to do a lot more than make some fancy commercials to win the hearts and minds of Canadians.”

Tim Hortons was recently taken over by 3G Capital, a Brazilian investment firm that merged the operations with Burger King and now owns roughly 70% of the combined company.

The spots had been airing for close to three weeks on Tims TV at more than 1,500 locations between British Columbia and Ontario. The campaign was to have lasted four weeks.

A May 18 blog post on Enbridge’s website touts the campaign.

“We didn’t roast the coffee beans. We didn’t stir the soup. We didn’t box up a baker’s dozen. But we did help produce that perfect Tim’s percolation. When your energy meets ours, java joy happens,” it says.

The post has links to Enbridge ads showing kids taking a bus to a school field trip and families on beach vacations, with the tag line “Life Takes Energy.”

Allison Johnson, a professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ont., said it was a “tone deaf” move for Tim Hortons to run the Enbridge ads in the first place.

Johnson, who has researched how consumers react when a brand they’re attached to does something to anger them, said Tims did the right thing by puling the ad and the controversy is likely to blow over quickly.

Since the ads have a captive audience among customers in line, Tim Hortons would have done well to run ads from a more “bland” company, not one that’s in such a divisive industry.

“Having put these ads on in their stores, they were implicitly endorsing Enbridge.”

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