a peek inside the fishbowl

20 Nov, 2014

Remember those Heritage Minutes?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Links and other procrastination

So this happened:

Burned toast!

And before I could pop another piece in I googled “burned toast” and “Heritage Moment” because TO THIS DAY I can’t smell burned toast without remembering this commercial.

Funnily enough, it took me ages to find it because it’s titled: Wilder Penfield on Historica Canada’s YouTube Channel. Had they called it “I smell burned toast video” it would have been a faster process. :)

But there is a happy ending to this story (other than the fact I got to watch that old commercial again). I realized that many of the videos are archived here! Some of my favourites include: Marshall McLuhan (“THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE!”), Superman, Orphans, Emily Murphy, Agnes Macphail (“IS THIS NORMAL?”), Rural Teacher, Nellie McClung (“Nice women, don’t want the vote.”).

There are many more, many I hadn’t seen. According to this recent Globe and Mail article, the Heritage Minutes “aired frequently on television during commercial breaks in the 90s, but went on a nearly eight-year hiatus. Historica Canada, the organization behind the spots, brought them back in 2012. They are funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, as well as donors – in this case, donors from Winnipeg who wanted to bring awareness to the story of the Winnipeg Falcons.” (There’s another great video in that article, so make sure you watch it.)

It got me thinking: ads work. Scratch that, GOOD ads work. (And it’s something I’ll try to remember the next time someone insists that McDonald’s advertising is easy to ignore and has no impact on decision making). There’s a reason I remember that commercial every time I smell burning toast, and it comes down to good storytelling. And I’m not just talking about the script, but visual storytelling, emotional storytelling. The best kind of content makes us feel something; pride, sadness, joy, anger, surprise.  The best ads, and articles, and photographs, and paintings, and podcasts, are the ones that tap into something deep inside our brain and as a result, stick with us for a long time afterwards like the smell of burned toast.

Do you remember the Heritage Minutes? Which one has stuck with you?

4 Responses to "Remember those Heritage Minutes?"

1 | Stacey K

November 20th, 2014 at 11:26 am


At Halloween this year, I found myself singing “When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last? Do you suck them very slowly or crunch them very fast?”

2 | Colleen

November 20th, 2014 at 12:12 pm


Burnt toast. In the time before YouTube I had to try and explain the Heritage Minute to friends overseas. And the PolkaDotDoor.
I still use “The Polkaroo was here and I missed him again” all the time. My kids think I’m crazy.

3 | Tricia

November 21st, 2014 at 10:15 am


The HP sauce commercial with the singing cow…still love that one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2A6YPowfwk
And I referenced the burnt toast Heritage Minute just this week when a coworker burnt her breakfast. Amazing how some things just stick with you.

4 | Lynn

November 23rd, 2014 at 9:06 am


At World Trivia Night last year there was a question about that burnt toast heritage minute – you had to name the doctor. I think someone on our team actually knew it. It definitely set of a wave of nostalgia. I loved that Nellie McClung one – I’m off to watch them all!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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