Test Drive Canada
Silver Agency of the Year: J. Walter Thompson Canada
Air Canada had identified the United States as its biggest growth opportunity. In 2016, the airline increased transborder seat capacity by 14.2%, launching new routes and frequencies to major U.S. cities.
Communications were needed to fill these seats with a budget that was a fraction the size of the airline’s American competitors. The brand needed to outsmart, rather than outspend to drive the consideration and immediate trial it was looking for during summer 2016.
By the winter of 2016, it was clear that the upcoming presidential election was not going to be like any other before it. Americans on both sides of the political aisle were deeply concerned about the direction in which their country could be headed. By Super Tuesday (a blockbuster Primary day) on March 1, disillusioned Americans were taking their anxiety and frustration out on their keyboards: Google searches for “how to move to Canada” were up 1500% and #MoveToCanada was trending on Twitter.
Air Canada and Agency JWT believed they could turn this cultural phenomenon to the brand’s advantage. What if Air Canada started to directly respond to these escapist queries and tweets with customized invitations to come and explore Canada? And what if it was done in a way that showcased Canada’s unique hospitality and humour (things Americans were clearly in need of in light of the political strife they were dealing with at home)?
‘Test Drive Canada,’ a social-first campaign, was launched in the U.S. on June 2, 2016 to coincide with the frenzied lead-up to the June 7 California primary. It featured a friendly Air Canada representative who suggested (in a very tongue-in-cheek way) that before people pack up and move, perhaps they should come and take their neighbour to the north for a ‘test drive,’ with the airline.
The first wave of the campaign consisted of 21 targeted videos, each recommending a Canadian destination depending on the viewer’s location and interests. For example, an LA beach enthusiast would see a video enticing them to check out Vancouver’s beaches, while a Boston foodie would see a video inviting them to explore Toronto’s culinary scene.
Then, on June 8, the morning after the California primary, when political commentary and malaise were at their peak, the team went into ‘war room’ mode for a full 24 hours, creating more than 200 real-time, personalized invitations to tweeting Americans to #TestDriveCanada. As the day progressed, momentum grew as Americans took notice, sharing, retweeting and responding to the campaign. Those who interacted were retargeted with seat sale messaging unique to the campaign.
As Americans’ #MoveToCanada angst continued to grow, the team kept responding in real time. Over the six weeks of the campaign, the client, creative and media teams met every three hours to review progress and strategize next steps. The real-time team was so responsive that after Conan O’Brien mentioned the Air Canada campaign one night on his show, the brand responded with a specific O’Brien-linked discount offer the next morning.
-Sales: #TestDriveCanada delivered an unprecedented 20% increase in U.S. sales on aircanada.com during the campaign, compared to the same period the previous year.
-The campaign drove 16 million earned media impressions in shows such as Conan O’Brien’s evening talk-show, and in publications such as the Los Angeles Times. AdWeek also did a feature on the campaign.
-Six different tourism partners took notice of and decided to contribute to the campaign, doubling the total media budget and significantly increasing the overall reach of the initiative.
-Virtually every paid media benchmark was surpassed. The Facebook CPV was 67% above benchmark, the Twitter CPV was 38% above benchmark and view through was 76% above benchmark. A Gawker content partnership saw page views 28% above benchmark and engagement 27% above benchmark.
-The campaign drove a 58% increase in U.S. social mentions of Air Canada. And 95% of the 45 million social impressions were positive, significantly above Air Canada benchmarks.
-Google searches for Air Canada increased 23% week-over-week after the launch of the campaign.