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How to Advertise to Ottawa’s Byward Market Nightlife

How to Advertise to Ottawa’s Byward Market Nightlife


While nearby cities such as Toronto and Montreal may have a more populated bar scene, Ottawa still has a large and young crowd that flocks to the Byward Market on Friday and Saturday nights.  And the fact that most advertisers think of Montreal and Toronto when trying to target bar goers in Eastern Canada results in one major advantage: there is extremely little competition and advertising noise in the Byward Market.

Another reason, however, for the limited advertising in the Market is due to stiff regulations and bylaws that make it difficult for outside businesses to advertise in the area.  Bike rack ads in the Market are small and rare, buses and bus shelters can’t be found since no public transit actually enters the area, and no billboards can be found.  Some companies have tried to solve this problem by advertising on the sides of buildings using projectors at night, but have run into issues with City Hall as a result.

The remaining options for advertising to the Byward Market nightlife include bathroom advertisements inside bars, as well as Rickshaw Media Group’s various advertising packages outside.

Here are a few tips for reaching and engaging Ottawa’s Byward Market Nightlife.

Market Research

Obviously, as with any advertising campaign, you’ll want to begin by doing at least some research and data collection to know what options you have, who you are reaching, how to reach them and what are most cost-effective advertising program(s).  Specifically, for the Byward Market nighttime crowd, here are some ideas:

Contacting Bars for Numbers

If you want to target a specific bar, corner, street, or so on, it’s obviously a great idea to pick the ones with the most traffic.  This is clearly valuable information if you’re planning to use bathroom advertising space, as the more people in the bar means a higher reach.  However, this could also apply to outdoor advertising targeting people in line for certain establishments.

Luckily, this data is fairly easy to get, although it can be time consuming.  Bars are proud of how many people come through their doors on a Friday or Saturday night.  Simply contact the bars in questions and most are eager to share their capacity numbers and how often, when and how close they typically are to capacity.

Seasonal Nature

The Byward Market is definitely a seasonal area in terms of visitors.  While this is mainly influenced by the tourism industry and doesn’t apply directly to marketing to the area’s nightlife, it is still noteworthy.

Over 30% of the Byward Market’s visits occur in the summer months (July-September), and over 25% in the spring months (April-June).

While, again, this doesn’t necessarily lead to any conclusions for the nightlife crowd, it can still offer some insight: the Byward Market is much busier in the summer.  Thus, if you’re planning a seasonal campaign, it’ll be much more effective in June than it would be in November.


As with any market research, getting some basic demographic information about your target audience is vital.  In the summer of 2010, we did some preliminary demographic research on the Byward Market nighttime crowd.  Here is an idea of what populations you can reach:

Most Byward Market bar-goers are female.

Most Byward Market bar-goers are female.

Half of all Byward Market bar goers were 20-somethings.

Half of all Byward Market bar goers were 20-somethings.

While you should keep in mind that these are preliminary findings and that more thorough demographic research is needed for a large scale campaign, these numbers give an idea of who your advertising would be primarily reaching in the Byward Market nighttime scene: young people, pretty much evenly divided between male and female.

Getting Creative

Getting your advertisement in front of as many of the right people as possible is only half the battle.  Actually designing an effective creative campaign that will engage this audience is equally as important.  With the Byward Market nightlife crowd that is mostly young and somewhat intoxicated, not all campaign ideas will lead them to buy your company’s product or service.

Stand out

There’s no other way to put it: most of the people in your target audience of Byward Market bar-goers will be slightly drunk.  This means a few things, however, from a marketers perspective, it means they will have ultra-short attention spans.  Your ad will need to instantly catch attention.  If it takes longer than a second for them to be caught into it, it won’t work with their short attention spans.


Think about where Byward Market bar-goers will be seeing your ad.  For the most part, it will be while waiting in line or at a toilet.  This audience won’t be interested in long, educational advertisements.  Instead, successful ads will be ones that give them a quick laugh and have a very simple, fun and enticing call-to-action.

Integrate and Follow Up

As with any campaign, you’ll want to integrate your advertising media with other advertising channels and your marketing strategy as a whole.  This is especially important with advertising to the nightlife crowd, because, unless you’re a beer company getting people to buy your product inside the bar, or a local night-time food joint, it is unlikely that your audience will follow up on the advertisement immediately.

Luckily, much of the Byward Market nightlife crowd, being young, is more in-tune with mobile phones and related technologies, giving endless possibilities for integrated marketing.

Our OTTBikes draw attention and offer versatile advertising potential in Ottawa's Byward Market

Our OTTBikes draw attention and offer versatile advertising potential in Ottawa’s Byward Market

Conclusion: A Few Ideas

How can we put all these ideas together? Here are two simple ideas, although the possibilities are endless.  All they take is some good research and creativity!

Idea #1: Place an eye-catching billboard on one of our Ottbikes outside the bar(s) with the longest lines.  Place large, noticeable text along the lines of “Text this number for a chance to win an iPad”.  This gives a clear call to action and a clear incentive, and provides something that can be done by young people while waiting in line.  Then you can return a text message to these participants that follow-up on the advertising with a clear, direct and original advertisement or sales pitch.

Idea #2: Place a bathroom advertisement in a few popular bars with a funny mascot for your brand, along with the text “Find this [whatever] for a free [product name] sample.  At bar close, have one of our Ottbikes outside these bars being driven by the mascot giving out product samples.  This strategy would combine multiple media channels (outdoor mobile billboard, mascot, indoor billboard) as well as several marketing techniques (samples, advertising, and publicity stunt) that is sure to leave your product in the minds of consumers.

Brian Clarke is the co-owner of Ottawa Rickshaws and Rickshaw Media Group