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Canadian campaign to boost American spirits makes international headlines

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump supporters Mary Claire, from left, Colette McDonald and Karolee McLaughlin, with her dog Lakota, spar with protesters during an appearance by Donald Trump Jr., a son of presidential candidate Donald Trump, in Boulder, Colo., Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. (Paul Aiken/Daily Camera via AP)
October 19, 2016 - 5:31 AM

NEW YORK - A social media campaign started by a Toronto-based creative agency has gained international attention for its effort to boost American spirits as the U.S. goes through a fractious presidential election.

Using the hashtag #tellamericaitsgreat, Canadians have swamped Twitter with compliments about American music, culture, technology and even tailgating. The outpouring of love triggered a reply — #TellCanadaThanks.

It's all an effort started by the Toronto-based ad agency The Garden Collective, which chose its hashtag as a play on Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America great again." The firm's video launching the social media push has gotten over 752,000 YouTube views and the hashtag has been trending on Twitter for several days. Many Canadians have made their own mini-videos, too.

Dic Dickerson, managing director of the firm, called it a pet project they devised for no other reason than to just spread love. "We put it out there and I don't think any of us expected to get as much traction as it did but we're really, really excited by all the positivity," he said. "A lot of people are talking, which is exactly what we wanted."

The agency usually focuses its attention on businesses. Dickerson said they'd never done anything like this.

"Every day we come in and the founders and myself and our team, we sit around and sort of talk about what's new, what's everybody reading, what are we looking at, and it always sort of came back to this notion of just how negative everything was about this upcoming election," he said. "You can either pile on with the negativity or try to look at the positive side of things."

Some of the things Canadians say they admire about the U.S. are its federal parks, its diversity, its missions to Mars, jazz and Tupac Shakur. One Canadian from Halifax on Tuesday complimented Americans for baseball, "The Catcher in the Rye" and first lady Michelle Obama.

The campaign has spawned headlines on the websites of prominent news outlets based in the U.S., Britain and Canada.

--"Tell America it's great? 'That is so Canadian' " — BBC.

--"That's nice. Canada reminds US why it's great" — USA Today.

--"Sympathetic Canadians Have a Message for Americans: You Guys Are Great" —the New York Times.

--"Leave it to a Canadian ad campaign to deliver the most inspiring message of this U.S. election" — the Washington Post.

--"Canadians send their love south with 'Tell America It's Great' hashtag" —

--"Canadians tell Americans: 'You’re already great’ to cheer them up during the presidential election" _ the Independent.

The odd headline takes a different view:

"A Note to the ‘Tell America It’s Great’ People: Stop Embarrassing the Rest of Us" — Vice.

Canadians — who have been mocked by their southern neighbours for their accents and their creation of Justin Bieber among other things — have enjoyed some good press recently, thanks largely to the telegenic Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Americans, meanwhile, have been in the doldrums as Trump and Hillary Clinton face accusations of running a squalid campaign for presidency, not to mention several dispiriting Hollywood breakups, including the demise of Brangelina. The land that gave the world Ryan Gosling has now proven as seemingly warm and kind as that sensitive actor in America's time of need.

"Don't worry neighbours, if the election goes haywire, you can all come and live up here with us, plenty of room!" wrote one Canadian on Twitter.

Only the most cynical people would suspect this, but might the cheer-up ad campaign be really a massive attempt to troll Americans? Is this just a big mocking of the Yanks? Dickerson said no.

"It's only coming from a place of love," he said. "We've kind of been joking around about it like it's a collective group hug from your neighbours to the north. It just felt right at this moment to share the love."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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