Why The Coast cares about tacos

Taco-bout a successful marketing tool

Wednesday marked the last day of the first-ever Taco Week, organized by The Coast. Ninety local eateries participated, making it one of the news weekly’s most successful marketing ventures to date.

The six-day taco event is part fundraiser for Feed Nova Scotia, part creative marketing strategy. The Coast is one of Canada’s last free weeklies. Events like Burger Week, and now Taco Week, are a large part of the reason why it succeeds.

How does it all work? Restaurants that already advertise in The Coast get first dibs in joining the Taco Week lineup. The paper charges a fee to promote the event on social media and in print, drumming up business. Eateries that already advertise with The Coast get a discounted participation fee.

Kelly Toughill, an associate journalism professor at the University of King’s College, says The Coast’s marketing strategy works because they know their audience and what kind of advertising appeals to them. She said they use this information to build ties with local advertisers through events like Burger and Taco Week.

Christine Oreskovich, a co-founder of The Coast, says the weeks are strategically planned during otherwise quiet periods. Burger Week happens during the lull after spring break, and Taco Week in “notoriously slow” November. “They need us when it’s dark at 4 p.m. and no one’s going out,” she says.

Dave Woodley, one of the owners of Black Sheep, agrees.

“They’ve nailed the week,” he says. “We’ve had lineups.”

Black Sheep has participated in Burger Week every year since it’s been open, and Woodley says he didn’t hesitate in joining in on Taco Week.

Why tacos? Nearly 50,000 eaters were surveyed before last March’s Burger Week. Pizza, poutine, tacos, chowder, and lobster rolls were all options. Oreskovich says restaurants actually wanted to do poutine, but in the end, the eaters spoke: “Overwhelmingly, it was tacos.”

While Oreskovich wouldn’t say how much of The Coast’s advertising revenue comes from running events like Taco Week, she did say building relationships with local businesses was more significant to The Coast than the amount of money they make from participation fees.

This is key, says Oreskovich, given that The Coast, being free, relies almost entirely on advertising revenue to operate. She says 87 per cent of online Coast readers have ad blockers, eating into the company’s ability to charge advertisers to run ads.

There’s also the charity aspect. As with Burger Week, The Coast is partnering with Feed Nova Scotia. Every $2 raised represents three meals served to the needy. “It’s all positive,” Oreskovich says. Last year, Burger Week raised over $150,000.

It’s too soon to tell if Taco Week is going to become an annual event. Oreskovich says many places sold out over the weekend, but they’re leaving it up to the eaters.

Abigail Trevino

Abigail is a fourth year journalism student at the University of King's College. She is also the publisher of The Watch, the university's campus magazine. When not reporting, she can be found doing yoga, baking, or reading historical fiction.

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