There is no doubt that the tourism industry is a highly competitive space. Increased exposure and cheaper air travel means it is getting harder for destinations to stand out. Few people travel only for ‘the sites’ anymore, but in a world led by experiences there needs to be more on offer – that is resonant with people’s desires and values.
Destination brands and tourism boards are constantly on the lookout for that special campaign that will stand out from the rest, leave an impression in the minds of viewers and most importantly, entice potential travelers. It means it has never been more important to communicate the spirit of a city, not just its attractions. Indeed, the former might well now define the latter.
It’s great to see that tourism boards and destination campaigns are moving beyond just showcasing the popular tourist attractions to more engaging an emotional content and capturing the spirit and the soul of a place.
As a passionate traveller myself, I wanted to explore and write about recent ads I like and one I don’t within this category.
2 Ads I like
The 72 Hour Cabin – Visit Sweden by the Swedish Tourism Board
Sweden is ranked as having one of the world’s top quality of life and beautiful nature all around. But what makes Sweden stand out from its neighboring countries? And how can it differentiate itself from the breath-taking nature in the rest of Scandinavia?
I really enjoy this campaign because it takes such a simple concept of nature and relates it back to the high quality of life the country has to offer – something distinctive of this part of the world. Stress is considered to be the global health epidemic of the century – and the 72 hour cabin is a case study/ experiment that proves that spending time in a cabin can reduce stress by 70%. This clever campaign leverages on the country sacred asset which is nature (and quality of life) and appeals to escape-seeking urbanites all around the world.
Not only is the depiction of the cabin and its surrounds so beautiful, but reading and exploring about it as I go about my ‘urban’ lifestyle in Singapore gives me a sense of calm and desire to be immersed in nature, to a ‘pause’ from the busy city life, and take a trip to Sweden! As an urbanite, it’s a message that you can buy into.
The ad is simple, focused and extremely clever in that it positions Sweden not only as a beautiful destination to travel to, but also as a local remedy to a global epidemic.
Tourism Australia’s Crocodile Dundee
This ‘fake’ movie trailer ad with a star studded cast was played at the end of the Superbowl, reached more than 100 million people and went absolutely viral. Getting plenty of eyeballs and shares is the best kind of marketing you can’t buy and is the ultimate goal for any kind of ad. And this one did.
The ad did exactly what it was desired to do: grab the attention of the American audience and seduce them to embark on adventures in the land down under. The blockbuster movie-like ad is entertaining, brings a real sense of Australian-ness and simply is funny. It leverages on Australia’s sacred assets such as the outback, and arguably the country’s most popular or ‘sacred’ asset at the moment – Chris Hemsworth!
I like this ad because it is unexpected. It takes a twist from the movie trailer and overtly expresses it is an ad for Australia while still showcasing elements of Australia, from the beaches to the outback, wine estates and Sydney – and all in a narrative that references Australia’s infamous Crocodile Dundee.
The ad was a clever, fresh and inventive way for destination marketing. It worked for me.
One I don’t Like
Amazing Thailand 2018
This 2018 Amazing Thailand, in my opinion, does not live up to all that Thailand has to offer and it certainly is not ‘Amazing’. The ad feels very forced, is filled with stock images and cliché shots of Caucasian travelers displaying overly dramatized excitement. It is cheesy.
The ad is a montage of the well-known tourist attractions in Thailand which makes it very predictable and boring. Unfortunately, a lot of Southeast Asian/ Asian tourism campaigns still follow this expected formula of simply showcasing all the tourist hotspots in an ad, where there is so much potential to capture the richness of the place and people, and creating excitement on an emotional level.
The Australia and Sweden ads play nicely on with the sacred assets of a country and they certainly make me ‘feel’ something, creating desire for the experience.
On the other hand, the Thai ad is very expected and is a superficial representation of what the country stands for. A successful destination campaign has to capture the richness and diversity of a place – the spirit – in order to stand out.
A country/ destination has so many facets and so many experiences and it’s tough to capture what makes the place unique and create intrigue within a few minutes.
A good place to start would be to understand the destination’s sacred assets – the core of what makes it distinct from everywhere else – and depict them in a way that only that place can truly own. Overall, the best commercials for destinations seem to be switching the message. They are saying – come here to feel something not just see something.